Shakespeare 450: 10 Things I Hate About You - DVD Review

2014 marks what would have been William Shakespeare's 450th birthday. In celebration of this (and being something of a Shakespeare nut) Ben intends to spend the year taking in as many Shakespeare films as he can - from old favourites to new interpretations and everything in between.

'Stiles and Ledger have irresistable chemistry'.

On the surface, 10 Things I Hate About You perhaps has the appearance of any other teen comedy movie. But the fact that it is loosely based on Shakespeare’s The Taming Of The Shrew should be just the first clue that there is more to Gil Junger’s film than initially meets the eye. The deeper you look, the more you will find within 10 Things I Hate About You which proves it to be not just a constantly enjoyable experience, but also a really quite impressive piece of cinema.

Central to the film’s success is the pairing of Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles as main characters Patrick Verona and Kat Stratford, equivalents to Petruchio and Katherina from Shakespeare's original play. There’s little doubt as to why these characters would prove to be the breakout roles for both actors. Ledger is effortlessly charming, bringing an immense likeability to Patrick despite the character’s initial introduction as a rough, antisocial outsider. Stiles, meanwhile, provides both the perfect counterpoint and complement to Ledger’s charismatic rebel, clearly enjoying every moment of making Kat the “heinous bitch” she is described as by school guidance counsellor Ms. Perky (the ever-welcome Allison Janney, whose character disappears from the film far too early on).

Together, Stiles and Ledger have irresistable chemistry, and despite both characters being grounded in comedic stereotypes, create a mature and genuinely realistic couple. Credit must also be extended to co-writers Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith, whose script successfully manages to modernise several of the more archaic ideas within Shakespeare’s story whilst remaining entirely respectful to the sentiment of the original. The dialogue regularly zings with sharp humour, particularly during the battles of words and wits Patrick and Kat wage throughout, at several points reminiscent of another sharp-tongued Shakespearean couple: Beatrice and Benedick from Much Ado About Nothing.

The supporting cast is impressively strong, with a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the lovestruck Cameron and David Krumholtz as his socially awkward friend Michael providing two of the most memorable performances. Larry Miller as the over-protective father of Kat and Bianca (Larisa Oleynik) also provides wonderfully funny support in all of his scenes.

Whilst 10 Things I Hate About You is undoubtedly one of the most successful and enjoyable teen adaptations of Shakespeare, perhaps its most impressive feat is in its manipulation of the teen genre itself. Characters are introduced predetermined into strict various social groupings, demonstrated no better than when Michael gives Cameron a guided tour of Padua High, pointing out the “beautiful people”, “future MBAs” and “white Rastas”, before informing him that Bianca is unquestionably out of his league. But the clear message as the narrative develops is that these labels are entirely manufactured: relationships traverse social boundaries by the end of the film in a way that feels entirely plausible and genuine, with all the central characters breaking free of the stereotypes imposed upon them – or that they aspired towards – at the start of the story.

A cynical perspective might be that the plot winds everything up a little too perfectly. But 10 Things I Hate About You is a film where cynicism goes directly against the contemporary update of the Shakespearean comedic universe in which the film is set, where happy endings are not just acceptable but positively mandatory.

Keep up to date with the Shakespeare 450 series so far.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.


  1. Oh man, I love this movie. I've loved it since I was a teenager. It's one of the few rom coms I can stand. Great review!

    1. Thanks for your comment, Brittani, and glad you enjoyed the review. It's certainly a film that continues to transcend its rom com foundations as well as appealing to a considerably broad demographic. Long may the 10 Things... love continue!