Apparently if you’re drunk enough when you say the title of this film, it sounds like, “The Taming Of The Shrew”. Whatever. When it came out in 1999 it tapped into two of the big trends in the cinema of the time: the high-school drama (Cruel Intentions, Election, Rushmore) and adaptations of the Bard (Elizabeth, Shakespeare In Love). It’s a teen tangle in Shakespeare country that manages to be both reasonably faithful (depending on how you define “reasonably” and “faithful”) to Shakespeare’s original, but not so heavy-handedly that the average audience member will nod off. It also managed to cast two hot properties of the time – Julia Stiles, who at one point seemed to be fighting Kirsten Dunst for total domination of the teen market. And new Australian import Heath Ledger, who actually only became a hot property after this, his Hollywood debut, in spite of the fact that his American accent starts to wander off towards the Southern hemisphere around halfway through. Like anyone was worrying about that.
The plot – the school’s coolest guy sets out to woo the girl with the most acidic mouth, to win a bet. No points for guessing where this plot is going. But it’s all about the ride rather than the destination and though the scenery is charming, and the fellow travellers (including Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Gabrielle Union and Alison Janney) great company, it’s really the technical display of sheer acting oomph by Stiles that sets this sexy, smart and cool high school rom-com apart.
© Steve Morrissey 2013