A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 471 – 10 Things I Hate About You

10 Things I Hate About You – June 14th, 2011

On our big list of movies (the one we keep for ourselves) we have a lot of little notations. We’ve got a column for whether a movie is subtitled, whether I’ve seen it, whether Andy’s seen it, if it’s part of a series and which series it’s part of, running time, etc. One column is “special” and has notes like whether the movie is a holiday theme or horrifically cheesy. Or if it’s a comfort movie. Something so familiar and well-loved that we can put it in on the worst day and it will require little to no actual energy investment but we’ll end up watching it anyhow because we can’t help but enjoy it. And this is one of those movies. We save these for horrible days. Days when the idea of watching something new and untried is just more than we can bear. Days when we’re recovering from oral surgery and have to hold off on the Vicodin. Again.

So I picked this off the list because it is hands down one of my favorite movies. I know most of it by heart and while I can identify many many flaws in it, they all end up fading because I love it too much to let it be ruined. There are questionable actions all over the place, but the core of the movie is actually handled very well, which I greatly appreciate. It’s a teen fluff movie on the surface, but really it’s a sharp bit of comedy that comments on sexual predators, individuality, growing up and a whole host of issues pertinent to teenhood. So it makes a misstep here and there. I’m willing to forgive it because it’s so spot on in so many other places.

The plot is loosely based on Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. Not my favorite of his plays, largely because I think the societal issues inherent in it just don’t allow it to fully translate to me as a modern viewer. Even as a farce I’ve never really warmed to it. It feels off. Fortunately, this movie takes the basic story and modernises it, giving the characters motivations and reactions that are far more palatable. Everyone here is given a clear role to play and the audience is given no doubt as to how to feel about them. The good guy does questionable things but he clearly feels crappy about it. The bad guy is a total douche and we’re supposed to know that and cheer when he gets his comeuppance. Not once are we supposed to see the heroine’s attitude as unacceptable (a little strong, but not unacceptable). We’re supposed to sympathize with the heroes and boo the villains. And we’re supposed to laugh, because this is a comedy, after all.

And it’s a good comedy! It’s really an ensemble comedy, despite having the clearly identified leads of Patrick and Kat, played by Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles, respectively. There’s Kat’s sister, Bianca, and Bianca’s two suitors: The sweet and dorky Cameron and the douchetastic and predatory Joey. There’s Cameron’s friend, Michael. There’s Bianca’s friend, Chastity. There’s Kat’s friend, Mandela. And there’s Patrick’s friend, who sadly never gets to say any lines on camera (his sole purpose is to look menacing and add to Patrick’s reputation as a bad boy). Add to them the adults in their lives (guidance counselor Ms. Perky, English teacher Mr. Morgan, gym coach Mr. Chicken and Kat and Bianca’s father) and you have a really fantastic cast of very funny people. This movie is what made me fall in love with Allison Janey, who plays the guidance counselor (who spends all her time writing a romance novel).

It certainly helps a fantastic cast to have a fantastic script, which this movie does. It manages to give everyone something to do, which is nice, and our two female leads get a nice bit of backstory. We find out, for example, that Kat and Bianca’s mother walked out on the family about four years back. This (along with his job as an obstetrician) creates a motivation for their father’s overprotectiveness and rule that states that Bianca can’t date until Kat does. Which seems like a great solution since Kat isn’t interested in dating. We find out that Kat dated Joey for a month when they were younger, hence her protective attitude towards Bianca. And I have to say, I love Kat. I love her so much. She is determined to make her own way and set her own course.

Kat is a large part of what makes this whole movie work for me. Because she’s meant to be seen as strong-willed and perhaps a little on the physically forceful side, but not unreasonably so. She wants to be herself and do her own thing and not be manipulated, which is what makes the whole plot with Joey paying off Patrick to take her out so very specifically meaningful for her. I mean, no one likes being manipulated, but this character has some very vehement things to say about stuff like that. So Patrick gets paid off to date her and in turn actually falls for her. And he’s the other part of what makes the movie work. Because if he was simply in it for the money or the prospect of getting laid? He’d be a thoroughly loathsome character. But he isn’t, and Ledger plays him well enough that it’s very clear that he isn’t. As he ups his price to Joey you can tell he hates what he’s doing, but keeps doing it because hey, he’s getting paid to take out a girl he actually enjoys spending time with. And what’s great about Kat is that she isn’t really tamed. She is not for one moment any less outspoken or strong-willed. She’s just begun to include Patrick in her very tight circle of trusted friends. So of course the reveal of what’s been going on was obviously going to hurt her.

I wish I could say that the Cameron and Bianca storyline is handled as well as the Patrick and Kat storyline is. And it’s not horrible! I mean, I like Cameron, who is nervous and adorable in a way that makes it hilarious to me that the same actor (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) later played Arthur in Inception. And Bianca is silly and fun and all. But the problem here is that Bianca gets a hell of a lot less character development than Kat does. With Kat you know exactly why she is the way she is and with Bianca, well, the only thing you get for her is “I happen to like being adored, thank you!” and that just doesn’t cut it for me. That being said, the interactions between the two sisters are great and the bit where Bianca realizes just what a tool Joey is and what she’s passed over by picking him instead of Cameron is really nicely done. I just wish that some of the scenes alluded to by the outtakes in the credits were still in the movie, or at least included on the DVD, because a few of them seem to hint at more development for Bianca as well as for some of the friend characters, like Michael and Mandela, who seem to just conveniently end up together.

I just love all the little moments in this movie. The quick lines and the fun performances. The deliveries on all the lines are fantastic, whether they’re comedic or serious. When you have a good cast performing a good script it’s easier to forgive things like some shallow characterization, an obvious butt joke, the flashing bit and the worst pink prom dress since Andie butchered Iona’s dress in Pretty in Pink (seriously, Bianca must have borrowed that monstrosity from someone with linebacker shoulders and C cups at least – or Chastity loaned it to her as sabotage). The lead couple works things out in a believable way for both characters. The secondary couple works out too. And the predatory jackass gets repeatedly punched in the face. I call all of those a satisfactory ending.

I do feel terrible that my review is up so very late. I just couldn’t string words together properly last night and the more I stared at my screen the more I knew I needed to just suck it up, take my painkillers and go to bed. We’re a good ways into this project and I’m starting to be a little relaxed on a few things, but hopefully the reviews will go smoother now that I’m not in horrendous pain. It was a good idea to watch this movie on a night when I couldn’t think clearly. I know it so well that I didn’t need to be thinking clearly to watch it. I could predict lines, laugh at jokes, etc. even if I couldn’t coherently write about them. Because this movie is one of my staples and I will always adore it.

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June 14, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , ,

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