10 Things I Hate About You (1999, Gil Junger)
Saturday, July 12 & Sunday, July 13; Brunch | Buy Tickets
– Kris King (@KrisKingTornado)
A few years back, my wife and I got into an argument about whether 10 Things I Hate About You or Can’t Hardly Wait was the King of the Late 90’s Teen Comedies. It went on for a few days. She stood in the corner of 10 Things I Hate About You, I argued for Can’t Hardly Wait. I had my reasons:
- Can’t Hardly Wait was the era’s spin on American Graffiti (It’s not. Well, it kind of is)
- It had a killer soundtrack (It does have a killer soundtrack.)
- I hadn’t seen 10 Things I Hate About You. So, obvious, it was girly bullshit. (Up yours, I win.)
She called me an idiot. Long story short, we watched both and it turns out I was wrong. Wrong Wrong… Wrong wrong wrong. Can’t Hardly Wait is still pretty fun, but it’s about as fluffy as you can get, and it doesn’t hold a candle to the smart-kid charms of 10 Things I Hate About You.
When up-and-coming high school it-girl Bianca (Larisa Oleynik) can’t date until her shrewish older sister, Kat (Julia Stiles) does first, a smitten, baby-faced new kid (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) hatches a scheme to pay the school’s resident tough, Patrick (Heath Ledger), to charm his way into Kat’s heart. It’s a played premise, but 10 Things I Hate About You turns out to be a clever, if tame, Shakespearean comedy that benefits from a providential cast and heaping dose of late-90’s cheese.
In any case, let’s listicle this thing.
1. Seems to me that one of the main reasons that 10 Things remains popular, especially among women, is how it twists The Taming of the Shrew into something that’s more palatable for a modern, femmed-up audience. Shakespeare’s original is a bit of a minefield for misogyny, and 10 Things manages to dance right through the thing. Julia Stiles’ Kat is like a living, breathing Jezebel article; and her courtship with Ledger’s Patrick doesn’t change much about her riot-grrl mean streak so much as loosen her up a bit. By the end, she still doesn’t seem like she’d be much fun at parties. Well… maybe scratch that last part.
2. Speaking of parties, the soundtrack in this movie is seriously pretty good. “Hypnotize” drops like a damn bomb in the scene where Kat goes Coyote Ugly on that expensive looking table. In fact, I would hire whoever DJed that party today. Dude spinned The S.O.S. Band at a high school kegger, that’s some balls right there.
3. I will never in a million years understand how the favorite band of a hard-edged girl like Kat would be Letters to Cleo. Girlfriend gets all a-titter and impressed when a dude name-drops Bikini Kill and The Raincoats, and yet, here they are, hanging out at a Letters for Cleo concert. Now, I’m not a girl and I haven’t read that much Sylvia Plath, but that shit just does not add up. Then again, Kat is 17. I liked Zebrahead when I was 17. None of us are perfect.
4. Let’s pause for a second and imagine a version of 10 Things I Hate About You where Larisa Oleynik still has her Alex Mack powers. I don’t know if it would change much. She’d probably still get caught trying to sneak out of her house, her dad doesn’t seem like the type of dude you can get much by, even when you can turn into a puddle.
5. Most of the comic heavy lifting in 10 Things gets left to the older members of the cast, who are, in a fun turn, more sex-obsessed and weird than the kids. As Kat and Bianca’s overbearing father, Larry Miller launches into paranoid rants about placenta and teen pregnancy at the slightest provocation, he even manages to squeeze a “Jiggy” in there. Allison Janney pops up from time to time as a counselor who’s too busy working new dirty euphemisms into her romance novel to pay much attention to her students. I especially like English teacher Daryl Mitchell’s detachment from his kids’ whiny white-people problems. And then there’s David Leisure, who takes an arrow in the ass and steals a kid’s weed.
7. That castle of a high school is a real public high school in Tacoma, Washington called Stadium High. Originally designed as a luxury hotel, some money problems left the project unfinished until the local school system bought it up. While it looks like a damn fairy tail on the outside, the inside’s all mundane American high school, if you can call a giant, circular lunch room, an underground swimming pool, a parking garage with rooftop tennis courts, and a huge stadium mundane.
Full disclosure, I was kind of hoping to find some dirt on the place — it’s full of racists, there was a sex scandal, a teacher jumped off the roof — but the best I could do was that a bunch of kids sprayed shaving cream on cars in the parking lot and got suspended. That’s such bullshit. I did worse shit than that at my high school. The place even has four and a half stars on Yelp.
8. Sometimes the movie’s attempts at dressing up Shakespeare for the TRL-crowd feels forced. Making bookish stuff seem cool is a pretty tall order, and oftentimes the results are pretty lame, like… well, a rapping English teacher.
10. Did you know there’s a 10 Things I Hate About You kinda-sequel in the works? It’s called 10 Things I Hate About Life and it looks terrrrriiibbbllleee.
Here’s a bright spot: they ran out of money! After filming got underway, production halted and its star, Evan Rachel Wood, took that as a chance to bail. She’s getting sued for $30 million, and it seems unlikely that we’ll be subjugated to this awful garbage. See? There is justice in the world.