Katerina Stratford (Julie Stiles) takes no prisoners in her approach to life. She lives a virtually un-materialistic life compared to her little sister Bianca (Larissa Oleynik) who lives life as Daddy’s little princess and loves it. Only one thing stands in the way of happiness for Bianca; the one rule that stands in her household, ‘No dating until they graduate’. For Bianca this is a penalty worse than death but for the once popular Kat, it’s not an issue. This is because, according to her sister, Kat ‘got bored’ of being popular and thus mutated into ‘a particularly hideous breed of loser’.
All goes well in the lives of the sisters until school pretty boy Joey Donner (Andrew Keegan) sets his sights on Bianca. This is bad for the new boy Cameron James (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who also has a thing for the popular sophomore girl. Both hit a brick wall as far as taking Bianca out as her father (Larry Miller) is keeping his rule firm. This is until Walter Stratford decides that a new rule is in order: Bianca can date, when Kat dates.
This drives Cameron to enlist the help of school bad-boy Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger), the same guy who allegedly sold his own liver for a new set of speakers. The only problem is, in the school where popularity prevails, no one does something for free. Cameron and his friend Michael Eckman (David Krumholtz) decide that they can play Joey’s intelligence, or lack of, against him by using his money to finance their plan. With Patrick’s help the boys must get Kat to date so that True love can take its course with Bianca and Cameron. Sarcastic and snappy, Julie stiles play the ‘shrew’ brilliantly opposite bad boy Heath ledger, who with his bad ways and good looks, can appeal to any girl.
The plot of this film has many similarities with Shakespeare’s ‘the Taming of the Shrew’, but also has many noticeable differences. To make the classic play appeal to a wider, more modern audience, the storyline has been modernised and set in a West coast American high school. The film kept the same plot and subplot of ‘ the taming of the Shrew’, but has shed the old fashioned names but still kept the Shakespearean roots, with names like Verona, which is the town in which Romeo and Juliet is set., and Stratford, the birthplace of Shakespeare. The characters of Kat and Bianca are essentially the same, although both had to be modernised due to the setting. Bianca retained the ability to attract many men while Kat retained the fiery temper of her counterpart in ‘the taming of the shrew’. The main plot of both of the plots sees a man trying to tame the ‘Shrew’ so that the younger, more attractive of the sister can be married, or just taken out, by a suitor of her choice.
Both of the subplots see different men trying to vie for Bianca’s attention but the newcomer gets the girl in the end. The only difference is that at one point the newcomer appears to lose when Bianca says that she doesn’t like him, in the film. This is later changed in the film where she rejects Joey for Cameron, after a hilarious sequence of poses from Joey at the party. In the film, Hortensio is represented as Joey, as he doesn’t get Bianca but does get her best friend, who tells her a horrible fact that doesn’t go down too well.
In the path to the relationship that Patrick and Kat later share, there are many things blocking the path. At first Kat plainly rejects Patrick, refusing to go out with him, but after he turns up at club skunk and quotes her favourite bands he nearly persuades her to go to bogey Lowenstein’s party with him. The differences between the characters in the film also comes between the relationship in the film on more than one occasion, but they are altered by either Kat or Patrick so that they are more compatible.
At the beginning of the film, Patrick is a smoker, but upon hearing that Kat detests smoking, he quits, but later sparks one up in front of her. Also, Kat thinks that her future is very important and has already applied to an east coast college, Sarah Lars, whereas Patrick has no interest in his future really, as he spent a whole year at his uncles doing nothing. Compromises are made to make the relationship work, mainly by Patrick who later turns up to ‘Club Skunk’ and tries to talk to Kat.
Both the characters must go through many humorous situations before they actually get together properly. One such situation is where Patrick sings ‘I Love You baby’ in front of a half filled stadium, with the school band playing the music. This is a highlight of the film and presents some of the real feelings between the couple. This situation is later equalled by Kat when she tries to rescue Patrick from the resulting detention after his performance at the stadium. All is going well as Kat distracts the teacher who is in charge of detention, her P.E. teacher, and she manages to engage him in her school soccer team tactics, until, that is, Patrick is nearly caught climbing out the classroom window. Kat thinks fast and gives the P.E. teacher more than he bargained for when she shows him ‘her secret plan’, in front of the whole class.
Situations like these make the script very smart and funny. Questions from Patrick after Cameron says that Bianca kissed him work well as it suggests an adult nature to this teenage script. His question ‘where’ and then Cameron’s reply, ‘in the car’, show the wit that can go into these films, especially after Patrick’s response to Cameron’s answer. Another piece of script that I really like is the part when Joey asks Bianca to choose between 2 photos of him in the same pose in different coloured t-shirts. She uses the word pensive to describe his look but he replies ‘Damn, I was going for thoughtful.’ This brings out Joey’s lack of Intelligence, as he doesn’t realise that those words mean the same thing.
The soundtrack of the film appeals to all teenagers and young adults alike. Some of the songs are more modern, like the Bare Naked ladies song, One Week. I really like this song and think it’s quite good. Also the Madness song used in the film, ‘Wings of a dove’, may appeal to any older viewers, those that were around when Madness were at their prime. Some of the other bands in their play indie music which sometimes appeals to me, as it is very much similar to rock music.
The film itself, without its references to Shakespeare and other writers, shows very well how the teenagers of modern America live. It shows how exactly the teenagers of America live, and how there are many different sorts of social groups within a single school. This is shown by Michael Eckman at the beginning of the film when he is showing Cameron around the school. He describes everyone as being in a ‘group’, such as the ‘don’t even think about it group’. This shows how the school is divided and how they can only talk to people who are in the same sort of social groups. Another thing that is presented in the film, about modern American teenagers is the party at Bogey Lowenstein’s house, where there is a lot of alcohol and nearly all the people there are underage, as the drinking age in America is 21.