While “Ten Things I Hate about You” veers pretty sharply from Shakespeare’s play “The Taming of the Shrew,” the movie cleverly captures the spirit of the Bard with its quick banter, strong female lead, and unpredictable antics. Heath Ledger gives an excellent performance as Patrick Verona (Petrucio), the dangerous senior with a reputation for eating ducks and selling organs on the black market. Julia Stiles makes the prickly Kat (Katerina) into a likable, relatable character for the audience while retaining Katerina’s trademark contrariness and difficultness in her world. The two clash in a love story both heartwarming and funny and you just can’t help hoping that they will be together in the end.
The premise of the movie is similar to the play: there is the beautiful Bianca (played by Larisa Oleynik) who cannot date or be wooed until her shrewish sister Kat goes on a date (or is married in the play). A smitten boy Cameron (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) falls hard for Bianca on the first day in his new school. Along with his new friend Michael, Cameron pulls together a plot to pay the scariest guy in school to take out Kat while he befriends Bianca by posing as her French tutor. A stuck-up model boy, Joey, comes into the story both as the financial backer to pay Patrick and as a rival for Bianca’s love. While many of Shakespeare’s lesser characters are not visible in any form, several lines from the Bard are clearly distinguishable in the movie. Also, Kat’s best friend, Mandella, is a hopeless Shakespeare fan-girl, which adds some Elizabethan flavor to the movie.
The quick, funny story skips through the Bard’s plot and through high school. Stereotypes are well-represented and mocked but in the breaking of such stereotypes lies the heart of the tale. Well-written, well-acted, and well-produced, this movie was a favorite of mine long before I ever heard of “The Taming of the Shrew.” It may not last as long as Shakespeare but “Ten Things I Hate about You” has proven a classic teen movie for all of us who did not find high school the best years ever.