Written by Sooz Kempner


Rated or Dated: 10 Things I Hate About You

Standard Issue writers are revisiting a film/book/TV series to see if it’s stood the test of time. This week, Sooz Kempner wonders if 10 Things I Hate About You will shoot her in the arse with an arrow of hilarity.

Poster for 10 Things I Hate About YouWhat and why: A 1999 teen comedy based on The Taming Of The Shrew (it even includes some of Shakespeare’s original dialogue) but set in a modern American high school. I was 14 when I saw it in the cinema and haven’t seen it since but I remember loving it, thinking Heath Ledger and Joseph Gordon Levitt were impossibly hot and wanting every item in the wardrobes of Julia Stiles and Larisa Oleynik.

The film made stars of most of its leads and is widely remembered as one of the best of the glut of teen comedies that came out around this time. Now that I’m 30, will it hold up? And do I still want to wear all those clothes?

Rated or dated: I figured I’d be impressed with what a smart movie with good role models for teens this was. I won’t keep you in suspense…I am so disappointed. The smart dialogue I remembered as a teenager has dated pretty badly. Bianca and Kat’s father nabs all the best lines but in 2015 we’ve seen the overprotective, smart-mouthed dad character in countless other films.

The love story between Bianca and Cameron (Oleynik and Gordon-Levitt) is barely worth mentioning, I cared so little about their romance. In 16 years we’ve seen too many other plots where bets are placed and white lies are told to win girls – this one in 10 Things I Hate About You is too contrived and, looking at it with my old cynical eyes, it seems a little mean-spirited.

Our antagonist is the arrogant school pretty boy and he gets some fun scenes showing his delusions of grandeur as a part-time regional model, but I honestly didn’t really care which suitor Bianca ended up with. Her character was so bland and shallow I couldn’t really see why she was such a catch (other than owning a Prada backpack). And you know something else? Her clothes aren’t even that great. I didn’t want any of them.

“I can’t believe I ever had eyes for teenage Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Oh, 14-year-old me had so much to learn…”

Though it wasn’t the razor-sharp lolfest I’d remembered as a teenager, the script does have its moments. Bianca accidentally shooting her teacher in the arse with an arrow is hilarious in its downplayed weirdness and I got a kick out of the rich golf-boy’s house being stormed by the entire school but the humour is, on the whole, rather flat.

So is there anything to recommend going back to this late-90s teen hit? The answer is yes. Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles kill it. You know, in a good way. Their chemistry is sizzling and the screen lights up whenever they’re on it.

Now, don’t get me wrong, Kat is no classic teen character and her rebellious nature doesn’t go far beyond wearing grungy clothes and enjoying a band that are kind of like an ASDA No Doubt. And flashing her boobs at a teacher to get Ledger out of detention is hardly feminism at work. But we root for her and we root for them as a couple.

It’s mainly all about Ledger. No wonder he became so famous; any hotter and he’d be fogging up the camera lens. He’s pure charisma and I can’t believe I ever had eyes for teenage Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Oh, 14-year-old me had so much to learn…

Dated? Most definitely. But worth watching for Heath Ledger’s star-making performance.

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Written by Sooz Kempner

Funny Women Variety Award Winner 2012. ASDA Kate Bush.