This film starts with Cameron (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the new guy at school who falls madly in love with popular girl Bianca on first sight. Unfortunately she isn’t able to date until her sister Kat (Julia Stiles) does. Even worse Kat is a man hating feminist with an attitude problem that no guy would be willing to date. So Cameron and his friend Michael (David Krumholtz) set it up for bad boy Patrick (Heath Ledger) to try and woo Kat into dating him. Complications arise in the form of Joey-(Andrew Keegan) a less then bright jerk jock who also has his sights set on Bianca and Patrick own surfacing feelings for Kat.
Here is my ode to why everyone should see 10 Things…
1. It’s a funny teen comedy
When most people hear the words teen comedy it’s a sign to run quickly in the other direction. Even someone like me who enjoys the teen comedy genre admits that there have been some truly dreadful ones in the past. Happily 10 Things… is one, if not the best of its kind. Probably one of its strengths is that it doesn’t rely too much on gross-out jokes (although it still manages to get in a few). Instead the comedy in 10 Things… comes from the characters and the overly complicated situation they get themselves in.
Arguably the funniest part of the whole film is in the outtakes played over the end credits, where actors mess up their lines and the cast play pranks on each. Probably some of the funniest outtakes I’ve seen on film and worth watching just for them alone.
2. Kat Stratford
For those sick of seeing teen girls as the same superficial, materialistic wanabees who only care about getting the guy, Kat Stratford is a breath of fresh air. Despite the first impressions of her being a violent, irritable bitch, the audience in fact roots for her for not conforming. Maybe the fact she is such a well developed character is as a result of the films two writers being female? Kat used to be popular before the film began, before she realised she didn’t want to do things just because others wanted her to. She is opinionated, intelligent and not afraid of what others think of her. Her blossoming relationship with Patrick doesn’t feel like a character being pulled down, rather its two strong individuals coming together to make an even stronger relationship. She may show a softer, emotional side more towards the end but Kat is no push over. She has dreams and ambitions of her own outside of boys and is a joy to watch. Wonderfully played by Julia Stiles, its no wonder she got an MTV Breakthrough performance for her role and (in my opinion) it is still her best to date.
3. It’s a great update on a Shakespeare play
The film is based upon The Taming of the Shrew with its complicated love troubles, except the focus is on dating rather than marriage, obviously. The film adapts the play by taking away the more misogynistic undertone and giving us a proudly feminist character. I wish I could be as honest and unafraid as Kat is. It also manages to slip in some quotes into the film such as “sacrifice yourself on the alter of love” with hilarious affect.
4. The great one liners
In a script full of funny one liners possibly the best is Kat’s defence for a violent outburst on a pervy male student. ‘I maintain he kicked himself in the balls.’ Priceless.
5. The ensemble cast
Unusual for a teen comedy the main characters are all three dimension. Even the supporting characters are well developed. Kat’s sister Bianca at first comes across as just another self obsessed pretty girl but as the film progresses you slowly see her grow into being more considerate and likeable. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is adorable as the love sick Cameron and Andrew Keegan throws his all into his one note but hilariously vain jock Joey.
The adult characters are also more than just the standard authority figures from Kat’s blunt, romance novel writing, guidance councillor (she says Kat is best described as a ‘heinous bitch’- to her face!), to her exasperated English teacher are funny and well observed. Best of all is her overbearing father (Larry Miller) who made up the ridiculous dating rule to keep his daughters safe from his perceived ‘dangers’ of the world (i.e. boys). There’s not a bad character in the script and everyone gets a chance to shine.
6. The official 10 Things…soundtrack
Whether its Letters to Cleo’s cover of ‘I want you to want me’, or Madness ‘Wings of a Dove’, this soundtrack is full of pop/rock hits. There is guaranteed to be at least one song that will stay in your head for weeks. I love the official soundtrack, although one issue- why is “Bad Reputation” by Joan Jett and The Blackhearts not on it? No matter this is still a superior movie soundtrack and a great companion to the film.
7. Heath Ledger’s breakthrough performance
He may have won the Oscar for The Dark Knight and critical acclaim for Brokeback Mountain but most of us got our first glimpse of Heath Ledger as the bad boy with a heart Patrick Verona. As well as being easy on the eye, Ledger also shows great comic ability whether its throwing himself into singing Frankie Vallie (more on that later) or delivering lines with aplomb such as “Are you saying I’m not a pretty boy?” It’s great to see a film where Ledger shows his lighter side and a worthy entry in the Oscar winner’s short career.
8. Visual gags
Not just relying on the fantastic dialogue the script also has plenty of visual jokes. As well as lots of funny back ground events such as Bianca accidently hitting her teacher in the bum with an arrow(!), there are also some fabulous set pieces such as Michael loosing control of his bike over a hill in front of the entire school. Another laugh out loud moment is the pregnancy suit Bianca is forced to wear by her father when she tells him she’s going to a party.
9. Heath Ledger sings Frankie Vallie
Trying to win Kat over by making a fool of himself, Patrick sings ‘Too good to be true’ in front of the entire school. Funny and romantic, for many girls (including this one) this is the moment they fell in love with Heath Ledger.
10. It has heart
The film is mainly about the laughs but it doesn’t forget to give you characters to root for. The two couples, Bianca and Cameron and especially Kat and Patrick are likeable pairings with great chemistry. The show also focuses on the Stratford family and issues such as the girl’s absent mother are explored without being smothered with sentimentality and gives insight into why the girls act the way they do. Their relationship with their father, while mostly played for laughs; don’t go the whole way into making him purely a one joke character. He too has his own insecurities which are being projected onto his daughters. The sisters’ relationship is fraught with tension, jealousy and annoyance and is treated as complicated as real sisters relationships are. If you’ve written off the teen comedy genre, 10 Things…may be the film that will change your mind. Or at the very least be the exception to the rule.