This is an installment for a series on this blog where Joe Brown, Sports Editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle, and I have a back-and-forth review of a movie. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, I picked “10 Things I Hate About You.”
The Movie: “10 Things I Hate About You”
Starring: Heath Ledger, Julia Stiles, Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Director: Gil Junger
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) A pretty, popular teenager can’t go out on a date until her ill-tempered older sister does.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 61 percent
Froemming: Last week, Brown went high with “The Usual Suspects.” And when he goes high, I go low. How low, you ask?
Late 90s teen film low.
I chose “10 Things I Hate About You,” a modern retelling of Shakespeare’s “The Taming Of The Shrew,” but with way more pop punk, horny teens and, as we will point out, the true origin of The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight.” But before dig deep into this, Brown what are your initial thoughts on this teen romp?
Brown: For the second time in as many weeks, this was a time when I would tell friends and co-workers that I had never seen “10 Things I Hate About You,” and be met with a bunch of insulted looks. Folks, I was 12 when this came out, lay off. This was more in the wheelhouse of my older siblings.
With that said, I know how beloved this movie is with people. And what surprised me is how painfully ‘90s it was.
Also, no clue this had Shakespeare behind the story. With the way Heath Ledger’s character was doing anything for money and had a spot in his heart for purple sportcoats, I figured this was a Joker origin story.
As I continue to write Patrick-to-Joker fan-fiction in my head, I’ll let you kick off the plot, Froemming.
Froemming: I had also never seen this, and I was in high school when it came out. I don’t remember anybody really loving this at the time.
Anyway, it is Seattle in the late 1990s, which you could have fooled me since it was so sunny all the time in this movie. Seattle is supposed to be rainy and full of flannel-clad Gen Xers at the time, not bubbly teens with strange parents.
And right away, the first song we hear is by the Barenaked Ladies.
Brown: BNL to us real fans!
Froemming: I may not be triple platinum, but I know their music is garbage. #HotTake!
Anyway, BNL is drowned out by Kat’s playing of Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation,” as some kids are driving to school. You know Kat is edgy because she listens to early 80s Jett and reads “The Bell Jar” in her spare time.
But this is no ordinary day of school. This is Cameron’s (Gordon-Levitt) first day. He is an Army Brat who transfers from school to school. But, it is when he talks to his new school counselor that I loved a little ongoing joke. The counselor is writing erotic fiction in her office. It was such a weird thing to put in a movie that I will give it props for that.
Brown: We also get a brief intro to Patrick (Ledger), who is routinely sent to the counselor for getting into trouble. This time, it was for allegedly exposing himself to the lunch lady. And as we find out several times in the movie, there’s many urban legends surrounding Patrick like how he ate a duck whole.
And, we meet the greatest teacher in cinema history, Mr. Morgan. If I were a teacher, I would want to be him. He makes fun of his students and calls Kat out on her (REDACTED) for being a privileged suburban white girl that thinks she knows everything about the world.
I want to buy him a beer.
So we know we are dealing with a salty one in Kat. And then there’s her younger sister Bianca, who’s like candy: So sweet she’ll give me diabetes and so void of anything else my dietician recommends I stay away.
Froemming: When Cameron first sees Bianca, his new friend, Michael, uses a word that perfectly reflects her character throughout the entire film: Vapid. But, because teens are raging hormones and pure id, Cameron wants to date Bianca, despite the fact she doesn’t seem interested in him. He then finds out the Stratford sisters have a curious rule in their family: They are not allowed to date. Because if I learned anything in my teenage years, kids always listen to parents with rules like this.
Also, #JokerTheory1: The lunch lady was so upset by Patrick’s sausage gag that she carved up his face, thus putting him down a road of insanity when he is outcast by society because of his now deformed face. That is where he got those scars!
Brown: I understand why Bianca is like this. She’s a high-school sophomore. Doesn’t mean I have to like it.
So Cameron tries to learn French in like 10 seconds in order to pass as a tutor for Bianca and ask her out. But, there’s a catch.
Before Cameron’s lame attempt, we meet Kat and Bianca’s father, who is a doctor that I’m sure missed the semester talking about how babies are made. He will not let his daughters date because he thinks kissing impregnates (or that’s how he reacts, at least). After a testy conversation between the three, dad decides to make a concession: Bianca can date if Kat dates.
Now, I had never seen this movie. But once that caveat got thrown in and Cameron makes his play, here are my notes: Oh, gonna guess it now: Cameron finds a way to get this done, Bianca gets her opening, goes with Joey (the goon of the movie) and Cameron wishes Al from “Angels in the Outfield” were there to give him dating advice. This is the ending to “Wet Hot American Summer.”
Guys, I came very close to this.
Froemming: I didn’t even need to know anything about “The Taming of the Shrew” to know this is exactly how the movie was going to go.
Cameron’s plan, with the help of Michael for some reason, is this: They get Patrick to date Kat, so Bianca will be available. They have no money to offer him to date an attractive woman, which is just an odd thing, so they need a backer. That backer is Joey, who pays Patrick to take out an attractive woman. Have I said this makes no sense to me whatsoever? Because it is not like we are having an “The Office” moment debating whether Julia Stiles is hot or not like Hilary Swank.
But because Patrick is on the path to become an agent of chaos, he takes money from Joey to date Kat. Money, I might add, he saves up until it is a giant pile he sets fire to years later to send a message.
Brown: Oh no, the whole plot of Patrick needing money to take Kat out makes no sense for this reason: There is NO WAY Patrick would be single and the weirdo of any American high school.
Take away the fact that Heath Ledger looks way too old to be playing a high-schooler, the man is absurdly attractive. And he has an Australian accent, which high schoolers would confuse for British because high schoolers are dumb. Hell, I felt attracted to him.
I’ll say this too: If Patrick is the reclusive weirdo that everyone says he is, I don’t think taking money to date Kat works because he would pocket the money. What would Joey do? He’s a pawn-shop Derek Zoolander. Patrick drilled a hole in Cameron’s French book just for talking to him. Advantage: Patrick.
Froemming: Now, Patrick tries and fails to ask Kat out. But Cameron has a trick up his sleeve: He and Bianca go through Kat’s stuff to see what she is into. And here we find she likes indie music, has black underwear and has a photo of Jared Leto — she obviously has a thing for people who one day will become The Joker.
Brown: Wait, did you just unravel Kat’s future as Harley Quinn?
Froemming: I am saying the evidence is getting pretty hard to refute. Long stringy hair, purple jackets, a mysterious past no one can confirm or deny.
Anyway, Cameron tells Patrick this information at a bar, where Patrick is drinking. This movie doesn’t even pretend that Patrick isn’t well into his early 20s and shouldn’t be in high school. Is this a “21 Jump Street” scenario?
Brown: Here’s an approximation of Patrick compared to the rest of the high-school kids in this movie.
Anyway, Cameron and Michael (seriously, why is Michael so invested in Cameron’s problems?) get a plan into motion: Set up a party at the nerd Bogey’s house. Now, huge problem with this setup. So, they make flyers for a high-school party, with beer, music, etc. and throw them all around the school. … Wouldn’t a teacher or a police liaison at the school pick up one of those flyers and have the cops break up that party before it even starts?
The answer is no. Because cinema. And what was going to be a night of cigars and brie cheese for Bogey and his MENSA friends turns into an entire school of underaged kids carrying in kegs and being distructive.
Froemming: And using his new information, Patrick heads to Club Skunk, where Letters to Cleo are playing and, I imagine, a young Ben Wyatt from “Parks and Rec” is drowning his sorrows after being impeached as mayor of Partridge, Minn. after his Ice Town fiasco. That is how he is introduced to the band. Look, my imagination runs wild during movies like this.
Kat sees Patrick there and a thin layer of her icy demeanor melts, and he asks her out again to Bogey’s party. To which she gives a flirty non-reply.
So, guess who shows up at the house once Kat agrees to go to the party so her kid sister can get drunk and pregnant via kissing (in her dad’s strange world)?
Brown: Time for our typical high-school party, where fancy antiques are destroyed by people and someone somehow carried amps into the house that would be used at a Motörhead concert.
And right away, Bianca goes for Joey and Cameron sees he was used. I feel you, Cameron: The friend zone is the worst thing ever. But it turns out Joey has nothing going for him but looks and Bianca’s teenage lust all of a sudden dissipates? I call bull on that.
And like me, when Kat is around groups of people she’d rather not be around, what does she do? She gets drunk on tequila and starts dancing to Notorious BIG’s “Hypnotize.” Everyone treats it as odd that Kat’s getting down to this song. I think everyone else is weird for not getting jiggy, like the kids said in 1999.
Froemming: We never said (REDACTED) like that.
Well, Kat is hammered and probably concussed, at least that’s what Patrick keeps telling her because he likes playing mind games with the future Harley Quinn.
And they have a nice little moment on a swingset, until Kat vomits on Patrick. We get it, she drunk.
Now comes a part I found weird. Patrick drives Kat home and she goes in to kiss him, which he refuses. And she gets upset about that. Kat, you just upchucked your dinner on his shoes, don’t take it so personally when he refuses your pukey advances 20 minutes later. It is disgusting.
Brown: I get it, as someone who is apprehensive about letting people in. She went in for a kiss and was about to open herself to this guy and he turns her away. Yes, I don’t blame him, because he’s clearly developing actual feelings instead of listening to his $50 from Joey. But, she’s embarrassed that she landed flat on her face once she is ready to embrace someone else.
Boy, I just got real on the JOE-DOWN. Better go back to the usual tone.
I want to rewind a second and mention a conversation that threw me off. At the party, as Cameron stomps away knowing he got played, he runs into Patrick who gives him this speech about not giving up on the girl if he actually loves her. Patrick says, “Joey isn’t half the man you are.” And yes, Joey is a sociopath akin to Dennis Reynolds, complete with drawing a naked woman on a lunch tray earlier in the movie. But Patrick, you don’t know (REDACTED) about Cameron. You’ve had all of two interactions up to this point: You drilling his French book and Cameron and Michael coming to you with their plan to hook Cameron up with Bianca.
You don’t know this kid. Hell, you need to stay away from him. Check his ID, future Joker, his real name is Robin!
Froemming: Some men just want to watch the world burn.
Now, Kat is back in Mr. Morgan’s class. A teacher who doesn’t take (REDACTED) from anyone. He assigns the class a poetry assignment, which Kat is vocally supportive for. Mr. Morgan is having none of it and kicks her out of class.
I love Mr. Morgan. I want a movie about him.
But back to the plot, Joey offers Patrick more money to take Kat to the prom. At first Patrick is unsure, but then agrees because he probably needs money to replace the shoes Kat barfed all over. So, we get a song and dance number from Heath Ledger, ladies and gentlemen, in which he serenades Kat with the aid of a marching band.
Brown: Patrick’s song is the one part of the movie that I really knew about before watching this movie. And you know what, I think I get why people were so in love with Heath Ledger after seeing it. I felt smitten by Patrick after this whole scene. It’s so ridiculous and rings painfully of a teen movie, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t enjoy it. I need to do “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You” at karaoke some time.
And really, this really showcases the Joker’s flair for showmanship and his disdain for law enforcement as he spanks a campus security officer during his routine. Soon, he’ll replace microphones with nooses and a bazooka that’ll flip a semi over.
Now, for his actions, Patrick is sent to detention, which leads to one of the more unsettling moments in any film I’ve seen.
Froemming: What? You mean Kat’s cunning strategy to get Patrick out of detention by flashing her boobs at the teacher, who has to be 40 years her senior? Yeah, I know the movie tells us Kat is 18, but that is some jarring stuff right there.
Brown: I’m pretty sure that Patrick was out of the classroom by the time Kat flashed the teacher. At the very least, it’s easy to assume as much because Ledger is not in the shot when Kat does this in front of an entire classroom of troubled kids and stoners.
Patrick’s impressed that Kat did such a stand-up (see: demented) thing for him, so what’s Patrick to do? He’s essentially a gigolo who has been paid to date this girl. He starts to fall in love with this rebellious (see: perverted) lady. Why, they should lob paint at each other and begin the transformation of Patrick and Kat into Joker and Harley Quinn.
Froemming: #JokerTheory2: Kat dumps Patrick when she goes to Sarah Lawrence for college. Patrick goes into a deep depression. In a fit of manic rage, he carves a smile into his face, to stay positive. His descent into madness becomes a dark, violent void where, years later, he confronts Kat, brainwashes her, and she becomes Harley Quinn.
Back to the review, Patrick and Kat frolic in paint like the sociopaths they are, and they have dinner later. Patrick asks her to the prom, which makes her immediately suspicious. That doesn’t sound like the Mistah Jay she just got to know.
Brown: It’s such a weird breakdown for them. Hours ago, they were smitten and making out with faces covered in paint in a pile of hay. Then because a high-school senior has the audacity to ask another high-school senior to prom, that’s some scandalous (REDACTED) that makes Kat suspicious? They’ve never established in this movie that Patrick has the same punk rock attitude that Kat has. All we know is he’s hot and probably too old to be in school.
It goes from “Go to prom with me” to “You need therapy.” What would you rather do, Kat? Rob a bank and try to kill the Batman? Well, yeah, she probably would now that I think about it.
Froemming: Well, Bianca wants to know why her sister is such a stick in the mud. And she finds out: When their mom left (a plot point that is vague at best), Kat dated Joey and they had sex because everyone else was doing it. She was too young to want to make that a regular thing, so he broke up with her, because Joey is a class act like that.
Why didn’t Bianca ever know about this, considering they are both in high school so Kat is what, two years older than her? Kat threatened to tell everyone that Joey has a small dork if he said anything.
Lesson: You don’t have to do things because everyone else is.
Brown: This was the most jarring example of something we watched going real heavy since Stephanie revealed that she was unable to have a child in “Fuller House.”
Kat’s reasoning makes sense but she was in the wrong. But I didn’t care. Because after the party, I just stopped caring about the Bianca/Cameron storyline. Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger clearly stole this movie. And really, who wants to watch a movie about a vapid high-school sophomore in a movie that is drowning in first-world problems?
Hell, Bianca’s concern with prom is that she can’t go and she’s the only sophomore that got asked to. Does this mean all of a sudden you’re your class’ avatar and have to go to prom? Also, there is NO WAY Cameron is either a junior or senior. He looks like he’s in Bianca’s class and if this school is like my high school, underclassmen can only go if asked by an upperclassman.
Froemming: I never went to prom, so I have no clue how any of that works.
Well, everyone is going to the prom now! And Joey drops the truth bomb about why Patrick asks Kat in the first place: Money. And he punches The Joker. We know how that ended in the future: A bomb surgically inserted into Joey’s abdomen so Patrick can blow up the Gotham City Police Department.
Kat leaves, her heart is broken. And in a pretty decent twist, Bianca beats up Joey. Good for her.
Brown: Who cares? There was a ska band there to make everyone’s day. There are moments where this movie can be timeless. But moments like this, this movie becomes PAINFULLY ‘90s.
So it’s just an awkward time for Kat and Patrick at prom. Not as awkward as the dance moves at an actual midwest high school prom, though.
Now, the day after prom, we get a heart-to-heart with Kat and her controlling dad. And instead of spouting off about teenage pregnancy like an evangelist pushing for abstinence to be taught in public schools, he talks about adjusting to parenthood with a daughter that’s about to leave for Sarah Lawrence. Yep, Kat’s going to her dream school, dad sent ‘em a check.
Now, there’s the whole matter with Patrick and trying to mend broken hearts before he starts rounding up thugs across Seattle, putting them in clown masks and stealing a school bus as part of an elaborate bank heist.
Froemming: Yup, to get Kat to forgive him, he gives her a brand new Fender Stratocaster he probably stole in an armed robbery. Because things are more important than feelings I guess, Kat forgives the lug.
Brown: OK, let’s say that a Fender Strat will run you $600 (just did a quick Google search). If Patrick can just up and buy a Strat as his big apology, what in the hell did he need Joey’s money for throughout the entire movie?! I’m a grown-ass man and a purchase like that is not going to be made on a whim.
He either stole that guitar from the place from “Wayne’s World” or he abducted the staff of a Guitar Center, dressed them up as clowns with guns duct-taped to their hands as henchmen dressed as employees held hostage so the SWAT team would mistakenly kill the innocents.
There is a certain darkness behind Patrick’s eyes.
Froemming: Does Patrick really look like a guy with a plan? You know what he is? He’s a dog chasing cars. He wouldn’t know what to do with one if he caught it. You know, he just… does things.
Brown: When they have kids, Kat is going to be all sorts of creeped out when Patrick dresses as a nurse and blows up the hospital.
In hindsight, for as much as we keep referring to that movie, we should have reviewed “The Dark Knight.” Let’s go to recommendations before we keep making more Batman references.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Froemming: Eh, movies like this really aren’t my thing, but there are solid performances from Ledger and Stiles. I say give it a go.
Brown: Yeah, I would. This was a good time. It’s not some groundbreaking teen comedy, but it knows what it is and does it pretty well.