I’ve had Disney+ since it arrived in the UK on Tuesday but haven’t had much chance to use it yet. Work is still open because, apparently, football kit is now classed as essential. I’m glad to still have my weekly routine but it has prevented me from really getting to grips with the new streaming service. All I’ve done so far is watch random episodes of The Simpsons. Not that it’s a problem because there are some gems in the 31 seasons. However, I’m not really getting the most out of it. So, I decided to watch something from there for my TBT. As soon as I’d finished work today, I searched the list of films. I got to the first one and stopped. It’s been ages since I saw this film and, as a teenager, I played the soundtrack on repeat. How could I not?
It’s entirely possible that this film gave birth to my love of Shakespeare before I really knew anything about him. I bloody loved this modernisation of The Taming of the Shrew and watched it more times than I probably should have. I still have a huge love of the band Sister Hazel because of this film. And I know that Letters to Cleo aren’t a good band but, by God, I love their two songs on this soundtrack. So, it’s possible that something about this film got to me and helped when I really started studying the Bard. Though it’s doubtful because, as with all modern adaptations of his plays, the films takes plenty of liberties with the source material.
It does the classic Hollywood thing of filling the story with in-jokes and references. Heath Ledger plays Patrick Verona in a reference to Petruchio, Kat’s family are called Stratford, and the characters all attend Padua High School. Somebody clearly read the CliffsNotes before writing the script. And you can just imagine how proud they were every time they snuck another one in. When it comes to the narrative, the basics are there but to say it’s loosely based is a bit of an understatement.
Kat (Julia Stiles) is the angry and man-hating teenage girl who lives on the edge of High School society. Her younger sister, on the other hand, is one of the popular girls. All the boys are fighting to take her out but there’s an obstacle in the way. Bianca isn’t allowed to date until Kat does. So, one of Bianca’s suitors, Cameron (Joseph Gordon Levitt) plots to get the school’s mysterious bad boy (Heath Ledger) to woo Kat. All he needs to do, is get the dumb heartthrob to bankroll it. But will ice-queen Kat warm to him?
What can I say? This is such a classic teen film. And how can you hate the film that thrust Ledger and Stiles in the spotlight? There are some incredible moments in this film and some really funny bits. Kat and Bianca’s dad is the ridiculous obstetrician who forces his daughters to wear a fake pregnancy bump before heading to a party to stop them from having sex. Then there’s the sassy English teacher who has no time for any of his students but bloody loves sonnets. This is a sweet film that is full of charming and fun characters. You can see real growth in all of the main characters and it does go further than most vapid teen rom-coms.
However, there are certain aspects of this film that don’t really make sense and could be removed. I love Alison Janney but her weird guidance councillor was obviously such a bad choice that the writers stopped including her after the first 20 minutes of the film. Then there’s Kat’s friend who has a very close relationship with the Bard. It isn’t developed enough to make sense and isn’t funny enough to add anything. Obviously, this was never going to be an Oscar-worthy film but, as a teen movie, it goes above expectations. It has some depth to it and the cast give decent performances. It’s nice to see that this still holds up after all this time.