Grand Illusion

The setup, of course, belongs to Shakespeare, but Junger, making his feature debut here, can be credited for using everything the Bard has given him to very best advantage. Junger received most of his directing experience in television, specifically on situation comedies. (He directed the famous coming-out episode of Ellen.) And where his skill shows itself most is in the way he keeps the various crisscrossing storylines straight.

He also has a considerable talent for getting confident performances out of his mostly inexperienced teenage cast. As Cameron, Gordon-Levitt is enormously winning as the character who -- with considerable assistance from his geeky friend Michael -- keeps pushing the story forward with his behind-the-scenes plotting. The one person in school who isn't terrified by Kat is Patrick (the Australia-born Heath Ledger), the school's notorious juvenile delinquent, who agrees to ask Kat out on a date only if he is paid for his trouble.

Because none of the characters are exactly as they seem, Kat is not nearly so unapproachable, and Patrick not nearly so tough. After growling at one another through a few scenes in the classic screwball style, the inevitable transformation takes place and the obstacles to love fall away, not just for Patrick and Kat but for Cameron and Bianca as well. Even Michael is rewarded for his labors on love's behalf. Though it has a classical parentage, 10 Things That I Hate About You is a small-scaled, slight undertaking, but its pleasures are unexpectedly rich. It has become a habit in our movies to portray the exploits of high-school-age characters as shocking and depraved. 10 Things I Hate About You allows its teenagers their innocence and something that is even rarer these days, something like nobility.

-- Hal Hinson

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