10 Things I Hate About You
Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, in this case William Shakespeare. "10 Things" is supposedly based on "The Taming of the Shrew," but the only mark of Shakespeare you'll find around Padua High School in this visit to the country of teenage angst is that one of the characters is named Bianca.
But don't let that stop you from going. "10 Things" happens to be a charming, funny, even witty film in its own right, though with more than a passing nod -- I would say a heavy debt -- to the best of all, "Clueless." Witness this exchange, one airhead to another: "I know you can be overwhelmed, and you can be underwhelmed, but can you ever be just whelmed?" "I think you can, in Europe."
The cast of unknowns -- Julia Stiles, as Kat, the young woman who abjures men, and Australian Heath Ledger as Patrick Verona, the young man who opens her heart -- are good enough to make you forget your own years of high school horror. The movie is filled with lots of physical gags, and teen moments caught on the fly a la "Clueless," and one magnificent minute as Patrick commands the high school stadium with a prancing version of "Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You" before the combined forces of the school band and the phys ed classes.
The film, which was written by Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith, and directed with verve and flash by Gil Junger -- his first feature after a career of TV sitcoms -- keeps the pot boiling fast enough to cover the holes in the plot, which is probably all you can wish for in an otherwise dismal spring of 1999.