1999 was a discreetly brilliant year for teen and young adult films. Just think about it: American Pie, But I’m a Cheerleader, Jawbreaker… What do they all have in common? Yep, they were all released in 1999. Earlier in the decade, we were treated to other seminal teen movies like Clueless, so it’s rather safe to say that the nineties were the pinnacle. (Although there’s also a case to be made for the eighties, since Ferris Bueller and Heathers exist, for example.)
Another massive 1999 YA hit? That’s right: 10 Things I Hate About You. Beloved by so many, this is a loose high school adaptation of Shakespeare‘s The Taming of the Shrew. It begins with a new kid named Cameron (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) realising an immediate crush on his first day, only to find out that the girl’s father has forbidden her from dating until her older, angsty sister Kat (Julia Stiles) starts dating too. This prompts Cameron to recruit misfit bad boy Patrick (Heath Ledger), persuading him do what he can to get a date with Kat so that he can date her younger sister himself.
Okay, calling this a “first watch” for me is rather misleading because I’ve definitely seen parts of it before. I was definitely around 10 years old, but I’ve seen parts of it nevertheless. However, imagine it being the year 2022 and this being the first time I’ve seen it from start to finish. Where have I been?
To summarise: bring back Julia Stiles. Other than the Bourne movies and Hustlers, the big screen hasn’t seen enough of her lately and this movie is testament to why that is so not justified. Stiles aside, it comes as no surprise that this is the film that shot many of these actors to stardom, particularly Heath Ledger, who is at his heartthrob-iest here. I also have to give a shout out to my main gal Allison Janney too, who once again wins in the comedy department and never lets me down, even when she’s dealing with such a small role.
What helps 10 Things I Hate About You stand up tall amongst other teen movies is undoubtedly the script. There are so many ridiculous yet quotable lines that seem effortlessly placed, and it’s really cool to see some characters who aren’t your average jocks and cheerleaders at the forefront. Indeed, this is much more Mean Girls than She’s All That.
I have to say, I don’t think I loved this as much as everyone else seems to. Though the characters are quite compelling and the soundtrack is absolutely banging, some of the pacing is a little slow and the grand gestures on display are a little cheesy, even if they do make for memorable movie moments. However, a teen movie based on a Shakespeare play that isn’t Romeo & Juliet is pretty original so I have to give it kudos for that.
There’s no wonder so many people love this movie: it has star power, an imaginative script and is crafted with some decent technical merit. Is it my favourite teen film? No. But it’s a classic for a reason at this point and it is much better than so many others.
10 Things I Hate About You is available
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Overall Enjoyability Rating: ½