News & Features » Miscellany

To woo or not to woo, that is the question in this hip look at the teen dating game.

Shrewd Love

OK, here's a universal truth: High school is painful. Here's another: Shakespeare is painful. Therefore it follows that a high school-set movie based on a Shakespearean work must be painful, too. Right? Wrong! Especially if the movie happens to be the funny, romantic romp "10 Things I Hate about You." Although "10 Things" unabashedly rips off scenes from about a dozen other teen genre flicks, it never feels derivative. Just fresh, funny and genuinely romantic. And even though it is an adolescent rework of Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew," the movie is wise enough and the humor irreverent enough to appeal to all generations. Set in contemporary Seattle at Padua High, "10 Things" centers on the very different Stratford sisters. Julia Stiles plays Katarina, the older sibling who's outgrown the need for popularity or sorority. As a senior waiting to escape to the real world, she disdains most of her peers and perplexes most of the adults around her. In short, she's a feminist who says exactly what she thinks and doesn't care a whit what anyone — be they teacher, student or sister — thinks of her in return. She's also something of a rebel, you see, because she doesn't date. It's this latter puzzling personality quirk that has younger sister Bianca (Larisa Oleynik) seeing red. Recognizing a good thing when he sees it, their obstetrician daddy (the droll Larry Miller) declares that Bianca can date when, and only when, Kat dates. Add to this bubbling teen turmoil the fact that the senior prom is just around the corner, and well, the game's afoot. Bianca finds an ally in new kid Cameron ("3rd Rock's" Joseph-Gordon Levitt) who has a mega-crush on her. She, of course, wants to go to the prom with the school's resident rich kid and burgeoning model-spokesman Joey (Andrew Keegan). But the true-hearted Cameron is not so easily put off. Enlisting the aid of the school's overachieving shrewd operator Michael (David Krumholtz), the two hatch a plot wherein they convince Joey to bribe someone to take Kat out. The only one willing to try to tame the wild beast for money is the school's bad boy, Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger). Dressed in black with long, unkempt locks and an Aussie accent, Ledger is a freewheeling loner about whom swirl myriad apocryphal teen tales. Tall, dark and handsome in a cool, unwashed way, Patrick is wise beyond his years. Instead of beating his chest in front of Kat, he allows her to discover for herself his worthiness. But while their romantic tug-o-war is progressing nicely, poor Cameron still must compete with pretty boy Joey for Bianca. Screenwriter Karen McCullah Lutz and director Gil Junger set up this anything-can-happen situation and it's lots of fun watching it play out. While Lutz earns high marks for her refreshingly loose adaptation of Shakespeare, Junger's record is more pass-fail. Junger, a veteran of TV sitcoms — he directed "Ellen's" famous "coming out" show — can't quite shed that episodic training which requires that the problem must be identified and solved within 20 minutes. Which he does, leaving more than two-thirds of the movie to be filled somehow and Lutz handles the job with aplomb. Lutz's dialogue is snappy and sharp, full of Shakespearean asides and sexy double entendres. In fact, the latter are so prevalent, I was surprised the movie got away with just a PG-13 rating. Lutz gives Kat all the great lines, and Stiles delivers them with relish. The rest of the cast is enjoyable, particularly Ledger. And the best thing about the ensemble is that their faces are fresh — there's not an overexposed Jennifer Love Hewitt or Sarah Michelle Gellar among them. Although much of the comedy seems hit-or-miss, the heart of "10 Things I Hate About You" never misses a beat. Smart, funny and romantic, "10 Things" successfully blends the Bard with John

Add a comment