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10 Years ago, 10 Things I Hate About You introduced the world to an amazing group of up-and-coming actors including Julia Stiles and the late Heath Ledger. Several years away from becoming the household names they are today, nobody expected this cast to elevate what looked to be a forgettable little high-school comedy to the prominence it rightfully found. Thanks to their hilarious and emotional portrayal of teenage life through a Shakespearean filter, the film has rightfully become a classic.
Subtly namechecking characters and dialogue from Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew,” 10 Things uses this gimmick to tell the story of two sisters, Bianca (Larisa Oleynik) and Kat (Julia Stiles). Bianca closely resembles your average teenager, in one of the most stereotypical roles of the film. A little contradictory in her behavior, she alternates between perky blandness and over-the-top emotion, much like a teenager. Kat however, while still a stereotype, rings far truer in her portrayal. Seemingly filled with hostility, she alienates everyone she meets, and wants nothing more than isolation from the cliches of the teenage world. Noting this contradiction, their dad (in a hilarious performance by Larry Miller) creates a new rule. Bianca may date only when Kat does.
All this leads to the expected misunderstandings and emotional growth typical of a film like this. But unlike other films of the genre, all of this feels real. As “bad boy” Patrick Verona, Heath Ledger is completely believable, bringing depth to what could have been an otherwise shallow portrayal of teenage rebellion. His performance is incredibly subtle, and it’s almost impossible to identify the moment where he evolves into someone genuinely worth rooting for.
Helping guide the audience through the inevitable complications is Cameron James, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (the film’s biggest draw at the time thanks to his work in 3’rd Rock From the Sun). His instant infatuation with Bianca fuels the story, and while most audiences are more likely to remember the Kat and Patrick relationship, Cameron and Bianca’s back-and-forth love story proves just as strong.
It’s pretty amazing how well this film holds up after all of these years. The film does feel dated, but that’s part of the charm. I absolutely love the soundtrack, which is pure 90’s nostalgia, and the film even features performances from a couple of bands, including Save Ferris. The supporting cast, including Allison Janney as the world’s worst guidance counselor, and David Krumholtz as Cameron’s best friend are also top-notch. There really isn’t a weak link in the group.
Unfortunately, with the exception of an audio commentary track from the writers and cast, there is only one extra. The packaging implies that there are more extras than are featured, such as Deleted Scenes and Heath Ledger’s screen test. However, these are just aspects of the single bonus documentary entitled “10 Things I Love about 10 Things I Hate About You: 10 Years Later.” It’s a really solid look back, and provides quite a lot of interesting insight from the cast and crew. Alternating between interviews from the time of filming and interviews of today, this feature provides a pretty comprehensive look back. As promised, there are several deleted scenes (some quite funny), and Heath Ledger’s screen test, which simply reinforces what a terrific actor the world has lost.
It’s a good documentary, but for a Tenth Anniversary release, I was hoping for more. However, it’s still a terrific movie, and it has never looked or sounded better. Featuring now-classic moments such as Heath Ledger’s song-and-dance on the bleachers, and a superb Julia Stiles poetry reading (which gives the film it’s title), 10 Things I Hate About You is one of the better high-school movies I’ve seen, and a must-own for any fan of the genre.