Just out of curiosity, do you know anyone who, in high school, was actually assigned William Shakespeare’s play “The Taming of the Shrew’? I don’t; the ones that I was were “Romeo and Juliet,” and “Julius Caesar.” But because in the nineties, there was a trend to transform classics into updated teen movies, this less than popularly assigned one was also taken out of mothballs, dusted off and became “10 Things I Hate About You,” starring Julia Stiles and the late Heath Ledger. Brainstorming names of things can be tough, which may be why this title wound up being so clunky. (Yes, there’s a reason for it, but it’s not the kind of title that easily comes to memory.) The filmmakers might have taken a cue from the person who decided to shorten “Orthello” to “O,” another movie featuring Julia Stiles, but they decided to go with cumbersome title-wise as opposed to a name that could cause confusion when discussing it. Fortunately, the script and the performances are anything but.
“Ten Things I Hate About You,” features two actresses: Julia and Larisa Oleynik, who are playing sisters two years apart, but who are actually the same age. They also apparently each wanted the other’s role. Anyway, Julia is the older bad-ass one who’s (gasp) a feminist, openly disdainful of her conformist peers and planning to attend Sarah Lawrence College next year which is all the way across the country. Like most siblings only a few years apart, Larisa is her polar opposite: an adorable dim bulb who is chafing at their father’s (Larry Miller) rule that she can only date when Julia decides to. Luckily for Larisa, an infatuated new student (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) decides to hatch a plan which involves enlisting the school bad boy (Heath Ledger) to woo Julia. Surprisingly, Julia is not easy to woo, but Heath persists, and eventually, they begin to find common ground. Meanwhile, Joseph finds he has competition in the form of Andrew Keegan, who likes girls, but may only truly be in love with his own reflection.
It’s one of the cardinal teen movie rules that anyone who makes a bet is going to get not just found out, but publicly revealed for the callous jerk they really are. This happens here, after the high jinks are brought to a halt, the truth comes out, and as “Not Another Teen Movie,” puts it, valuable lessons are learned in life by all involved. According to the Internet Movie Database, the script was originally supposed to be darker with one character making references to suicide, but luckily, that was scrapped because it wouldn’t really have fit with the overall parodying tone (for example, the guidance counselor, played by Alison Janney, is “Ms. Perky”). So, to quote another Shakespeare play, for the characters of this movie, all’s well that ends well.