- The most entertaining modern-day Shakespeare adaptation since Scarface (Macbeth). I was schooled in England, which meant a lot of Shakespeare was read (and watched). I once played Romeo onstage. Undoubtedly a result of a burn-out of sorts, I have developed a tendency to ignore all things Shakespeare – a condition not helped by the ceaseless use of the Shakespeare “brand” to rip off tourists – much like how our brains will stop registering physical landmarks given sufficient exposure (I would pass the Palace of Westminster without so much as a glance returning home from Leicester Square’s casinos or the Southbank Undercroft). And whilst not all of Shakespeare’s work may have been entirely original, cough cough, it sometimes takes a disguise like 10 Things to remind me that whoever is really to thank for writing/plagiarising his (/her/their, depending on who you ask) stories definitely knew how to write/pick a good one. A pleasant surprise, that I was watching The Taming of the Shrew dawned on me only once the film was underway (if I had known before, I had completely forgotten); I sat down to watch it knowing nothing but that it is one of my girlfriend’s favourites.
- Not just another cheesy romantic comedy aimed at preteen girls. I believe this film is as good an example as any of why one should never judge a book by its cover. In my defence, I haven’t ever refused to watch it: I don’t care about genre (all have both gems and turds) and will never knock a film before watching it myself (don’t believe the hype). But nevertheless, over the years I have chosen other films (often significantly worse, in retrospect) over 10 Things I Hate About You, such as when spending loose change on movies in thrift shops, picking something on streaming sites, and the like. I don’t know why (possibly actually the incredibly boring cover), but I expected something more generic, more normal, more “ok”. That’s not to say this is the best comedy I’ve ever seen – and it’s possible the experience was enhanced by its following a week-long thriller binge – but it massively exceeded my (admittedly modest) expectations and was much less alienating (as a young adult male watching it for the first time) than I expected.
- Nostalgia. I know, weird right? As mentioned above, I hadn’t actually seen this movie before, I didn’t grow up in America, go to a co-ed high school (and definitely had less fun than the characters in the movie), or ever get paid to seduce a girl so a classmate could date her sister (unbelievable, I know). But as a young adult slowly adjusting to wage slips, bills, and taxes, it did stir up happy memories of both the pettiness of the worries of student life and the fun I so recently left behind (my university year were the most care free and enjoyable of my 24 on Earth so far). I was taken aback that a first viewing of a film could have a similar (albeit less intense) emotional impact to that of, say, each American Pie binge with my best friend since graduating (and yes we watch all of them, including the bad ones: “American Pie Presents” I’m looking at y’all) – a genuine nostalgia, given that it is the continuation of a tradition we ourselves started in our high school years over a decade ago.
- Chemistry. This film strikes a nice balance: genuinely funny yet emotional enough when it counts, whilst maintaining a sort of easy lightheartedness and innocence throughout. In my opinion most significantly, the film has captured a most authentic sense of friendship between the cast. Apparently Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles – whose characters (Patrick and Kat, respectively) date in the movie – themselves dated during filming and David Krumholtz (who played Michael) has credited the film’s success to the real-life friendships formed on set:
The cast was experiencing what I’ve since found to be all too rare: a unified chemistry throughout the ensemble, without a single bad apple in the bunch. We all agreed that we were having the best summer of our lives.
- The cast. Whilst friends played by real friends and a couple played by a real couple arguably makes for a fairly straightforward job for the cast (all jokes aside, Stiles’ performance is particularly strong), many have gone on to have rather fruitful careers; Whilst protagonists Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Cameron), Stiles, and Ledger have had arguably the best careers in the (almost) two decades post- 10 Things, a surprising number of the young cast are still familiar faces on screen. Either way it’s always fun to see actors “back in the day”.
- The cast. Ok, I don’t actually hate the cast. More accurately, it saddened me to see a Heath Ledger looking so young, relaxed, and happy, in the context of his untimely and tragic passing. A phenomenal talent from the start – 10 Things serving as his breakout performance in American film – to finish – winning the second ever posthumous Academy Award for acting with his perfect rendition of The Joker in The Dark Knight, and the youngest posthumous Oscar winner ever, by over a decade – it saddens me to think of the wonderful talent that was lost. But what really breaks my heart is to think of the future he had ahead of him but didn’t get to live, the daughter he didn’t get to see grow, and the family and friends he left behind.
- Nostalgia. Nostalgia is always a little bittersweet. But, with real-world adulthood looming, looking back at my youth and those beloved university years that came and went in a flash, the realisation that 1999 was nearly two decades ago (already?!), and a poignant reminder that life is both delicate and fleeting is enough to send me into an existentialist crisis if I pay it too much thought. Thank goodness it was a comedy and not a coming of age drama.
- Not just another cheesy romantic comedy aimed at preteen girls. On a slightly cheerier note, I really wish this revelation (mentioned in point 2) had come sooner, as both storyline and setting would have been more relevant and relatable whilst at high school myself, being force fed Shakespeare like there’s no tomorrow.
- The guitar.* (If you don’t mind a little spoiler or have already seen the movie, you’ll find this point if you scroll down. If you do, please ignore the paragraph after point 10.)
- That I didn’t hate it. Not even close, not even a little bit, not even at all.
* As if Kat, a strong, stubborn, and intelligent young woman, one scarred enough by past experiences to have literally chosen to transform herself from one of the most popular young ladies at school to a loner, having let someone past that tough facade into her surprisingly delicate world only to find out he was paid to do it would ever trust him again (or any other men, for a while at least), beautiful Stratocaster or not. Of course, as viewers we know how Patrick really feels, and it really is the right outcome, but – much like assuming a cat is a mammal because it has four legs like a dog, which is also a mammal – one can reach a correct conclusion through faulty logic (after all, a lizard also has four legs). Having witnessed the lengths needed to win her heart in the first place, I highly doubt any gift would be enough. Great guitar though.