Time is a funny thing. It can give perspective, it can change your view, it can allow new ideas to filter in that you had not considered before. This is exactly what has happened to me as I watched 10 Things I Hate About You ten years after its original release. It is definitely a different experience, when you consider the cast and and what they did here and where many of them have gone since then. I cannot help but let it color my views of the film.
Before we get to my changing views, let's take a look at the film first, shall we?
10 Things I Hate About You is loosely based on William Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew" (you can even see the similarity in the flow of the respective titles). Take the play, modernize the language, set it in the modern day, make the characters high school students, pepper the film with Shakespeare references, and you're good to go.
On the surface, the movie would seem to be littered with cliches. You would be right to notice that. However, if you dig beneath the surface just a little bit, you will find that while the cliches are alive and well, working to create a film that is as predictable as they come (seriously, is there anyone who could not predict what was going to happen even without knowing the play?), there is a little something more to discover. What helps this movie stand out are the characters. Sure, their actions are taking them through the motions, but the way the roles are written and performed gives them more substance and humanity than you would expect.
The film centers on Kat (Julia Stiles); she is the titular shrew. She is a strong, independent woman who does not cave in to the desires of others. She is the crux of the issue as her father (Larry Miller) will not let her younger sister, Bianca (Larisa Oleynik), date until Kat does. It just so happens that Bianca has a pair of potential suitors. This pair consists of the school newcomer Cameron (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and the big man on campus Joey (Andrew Keegan). Now, if these are not enough players for you, enter Cameron's friend Michael (David Krumholtz) as the brain who thinks up the plan to get the pieces together and Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger) as the man pegged to pair up with Kat.
Phew. Now, with all the pieces in place the fun can begin. I am sure you don't need me telling you what happens, what with the predictability. If you haven't seen the movie, give it a shot. If you have seen it, you know if you like it or not.
As for the time issue, just take a look at the cast. The obvious first face to catch your gaze has to be the late Heath Ledger. When he passed away, he was on the verge of breaking out as a huge star with the release of The Dark Knight. It is interesting that I never really saw him as a big star prior to his Joker performance. That combined with Brokeback Mountain saw him emerging as an amazingly talented actor with a bright future. Now, looking back at this, one of his earliest performances, I cannot help but see it differently. Hindsight is 20/20 and he has the presence of a future star. He holds the screen well and has a good deal of charisma. He is very good here and it makes me sad we will not get to see him achieve his full potential.
Also in the cast is Joseph Gordon-Levitt in an early big screen role. This came during his run on 3rd Rock from the Sun, where he got his start. He has developed into one of my favorite actors with his roles in films like Brick, Mysterious Skin, The Lookout, and (500) Days of Summer. Here he plays a typical teen, but he does it well, and according to other cast and crew was very serious about his work. It is definitely paying off now.
Beyond those "big two" there are a few other notables in this cast. There is the film's main star, Julia Stiles. I am not her biggest fan, but she has made a nice career for herself and this film is probably a big reason for it. David Krumholtz is currently seeing success on the TV show Numb3rs and appeared in a favorite film of mine, Serenity. Also hidden inside the cast list is Gabrielle Union, a 26-year-old playing a high school sophomore and pulling it off.
In short, it is interesting to see the familiar faces all in one film at a very early part of their career. Their collective success makes viewing this film a different experience as the filter of time has definitely changed the way we see it.
Audio/Video. The video is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and it looks pretty good. The film is bright and colorful and the video has good color definition, plenty of detail in there. I cannot say the film is great looking, but this transfer is certainly worthy. The audio is centered on the front with surrounds kicking in for a few sequences like the party scene. The same can be said for the sub activity, with most of its action coming during the frequent pop songs.
Extras. There is a pair of extras included on this anniversary edition.
- Commentary. The track features the writers Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith, and cast members David Krumholtz Larisa Oleynik, and Andrew Keegan. It is a fun track, if not the most informative. They have a good time reminiscing on the shoot and the friends they made.
- 10 Things I Love About 10 Things I Hate About You. This featurette runs for 35-minutes and contains new and old interview footage along with some behind the scenes footage from the set. It is fun watching them reminisce on the film as well as seeing what they were like back during the filming.
- Digital Copy. There is a second disk with a digital copy of the film that can be transferred and used on iPods and other portable devices.
Bottom line. No, this is not the greatest film ever. It traffics in many of the standard teen/high school cliches but stands out in making the characters feel more natural and real even in the standard sequences. The movie is most notable for an early look at some now-established performers. It is a solid teen flick and worth checking out.
Here is a behind the scenes clip of what may be the film's most iconic moment: