'10 Things I Hate About You': THR's 1999 Review
On March 31, 1999, Touchstone Pictures released the Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles rom-com 10 Things I Hate About You in theaters, where it went on to gross $38 million stateside. The Hollywood Reporter's original review is below.
A high school comedy-romance based on a William Shakespeare play — what could be hotter? Touchstone Pictures' freewheeling, frequently knuckleheaded reworking of The Taming of the Shrew features a bright, beauteous young cast, but it's not one for serious fans of the Bard.
10 Things I Hate About You is destined to score a solid hit with the target audience during the holiday weekend. It stars Julia Stiles as Katarina Stratford, a combative, brainy, unpopular teen notorious among her classmates for harassing teachers, plowing over opponents on the soccer field, backing up and smashing into expensive cars and never dating.
Debut screenwriters Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith don't make it easy for director Gil Junger, a veteran of episodic television, including the "coming out" episode of Ellen. There's the strain of employing elements and themes from Shakespeare's original shows in several places, not the least of which is the plot-driving gambit of paranoid father Walter Stratford (Larry Miller) declaring that Kat must date before her more popular younger sister Bianca (Larisa Oleynik) can.
There's plenty of silliness to the film's irreverent-above-all-else approach, from elaborate physical gags to such showstoppers as erotic story-writing school counselor Ms. Perky (Allison Janney). There's also plenty of hunkiness on display in the reluctant tamer of Kat, long-haired, smooth-talking Aussie import Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger).
Set, of course, in the weeks before the prom in a Pacific Northwest town, the tangled plot begins with nice newcomer Cameron James (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) striking up a friendship with smart but stodgy Michael Eckman (David Krumholtz). The former sets his sights on Bianca, while the latter takes the initiative in employing Bianca's more overt suitor Joey Donner (Andrew Keegan) in a scheme to get Kat out on a date with Patrick.
Joey pays Patrick, but the likable lug grows fond of short-tempered, no-nonsense Kat, who in turn warms up to him. Meanwhile, Cameron appears to lose out to Joey for the prize of dating Bianca. From a rowdy impromptu party to Kat flashing her breasts and helping Patrick get out of detention to "upchuck reflex" jokes to Joey scrawling a penis and testicles on the side of Michael's face, the film is spirited and shameless.
While Stiles (The '60s) is never quite as memorably hateful as her character's reputation and the title warrants, she's quite successful in the role and well-matched with Ledger (Roar). — David Hunter, originally published on March 31, 1999