Thursday, February 28, 2013

Movie #175: 10 Things I Hate About You

(To recap: I'm watching all my movies in alphabetical order. When we buy new movies that come before our current place in the alphabet, we bump them to the front of the queue. Now that Oscar season is over, we're back into this project.)

10 Things I Hate About You is a 1990s comedy starring Julia Stiles, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Heath Ledge, Larisa Oleynik, David Krumholtz, Larry Miller and Allison Janney. It's basically a retelling of The Taming of the Shrew, but written by women. You can tell, and that's not a bad thing.

The basic, basic premise is similar. The Stratford sisters, Bianca (Oleynik) and Kat (Stiles) can't date. But then their overprotective, controlling OB/GYN father (Miller) changes the rules - Bianca can date if Kat does. But Kat is antisocial and hostile to everyone, and has no interest in anything high-school related, dating included. The new boy in school, Cameron (Gordon-Levitt), falls for Bianca, and so he and his buddy Michael (Krumholtz) manipulate the beautiful, brash asshole Joey Donner (Michael Keegan) to pay the equally antisocial bad boy Patrick Verona (Ledger) to take Kat out, thus ensuring Joey can get with Bianca, but Cameron plans to sneak in and get her attention before Joey can. Whew.

It's convoluted, but shit, it's based on Shakespeare. And really, if you watch the interplay between Bianca, Joey and Cameron, it's not like things are really easily resolved. Bianca's kind of selfish and shallow, and when Cameron realizes that he's just about ready to say "fuck it," but then Bianca kind of wises up to the fact that he's being nice to her when Joey's a complete ass. Kat initially has no time for Patrick (and he does come off like a complete tool), but he actually puts forth the effort to get to know her, and they find some common ground, and then they fall in love. There are some issues with boundaries, but no one (except Joey) is really interested in taking advantage (Patrick deliberately chooses not to kiss drunk Kat, though I think he'd have saved himself some grief if he'd explained that rather than just not kissing her).

The movie is well-acted and funny. The dialog is pretty damned 90s, but it reads as pretty genuine, if a little shallow in places. The characters stop just this side of over the top and simplistic in their motivations, and I like that Miller's character has a reason for being so freakishly paranoid about his daughters getting knocked up (and I like that they both call him on the fact that he's really disrespecting them by removing any agency they have in the matter, Bianca especially).

I definitely like that the ending bears no resemblance to the play - Kat isn't broken, she and Patrick get together on equal footing and Kat goes to him not because he's tortured her into acquiescing (as the titular shrew does in the play), but because she really loves him and chooses to forgive him. There's mutual vulnerability there, and like I said, you can tell that women wrote the screenplay, because I seriously doubt a man, writing for the same demographic, would have handled it that well.

As with many movies, this one just drives home how much of a loss it is that Ledger died so young. It is amusing to note, however, that the Joker and the heir-apparent to the mantle of the Batman went to high school together. Maybe Julia Stiles could play Poison Ivy someday.

My grade: A-
Rewatch value: Medium-high

Next up: Flubber