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Kiss Me, Julia!

by Mike Liss

Four years after "Clueless" reinvented the teen flick by actually being funny, smart, sexy, clever, and cool all at once, there's finally a movie that can make a rightful claim as heir. As a 26 year-old guy, I can't say the current hot streak of teen flicks has had me asking my mom to drive me to the mall cineplex, but there was something about the truly entertaining 10 Things I Hate About You that had me hanging with the Clearasil set again, making me so glad not to be back in high school, but reminding me why I still get high school crushes nearly every day.

As a concept, The Taming of the Shrew in homeroom makes a lot more sense than Dangerous Liasons with Buffy does; love is still the noblest battle, wit the sharpest weapon, and a date by any other name is just a date. And since nothing is more melodramatic than high school, you have a perfect fit.

So, like, here's the deal: New sensitive-boy-in-town Cameron likes Bianca, who thinks she likes vain model Joey, but who can't date until her older sister Katarina goes on a date. So Cameron and his pal Michael hatch a plan to use Joey to buy off some guy to date Kat, hoping in the meantime Bianca will realize it's Cameron whom she really likes. Problem is, nobody's crazy enough to date Kat, a shrew for the `90s who speaks her mind, digs her tunes, and wouldn't mind everyone else just bugging off. So they enlist the dark, mysterious Patrick, who is of course Kat's perfect match, and the battle between the two begins.

Julia Stiles as Kat (who, curiously enough, will be seen soon as the Desdemona character in the Othello-in-high school flick O) is ten reasons to see this movie alone. It's a fine line between "heinous bitch" and misunderstood, and Kat couldn't care less. But Stiles' charm, wit, and timing never allow Kat to go mopey; she's far too sweetly spirited (and smart) for that. Far before Patrick melts her with a marching band/karaoke rendition of "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You," a scene far funnier and more charming than it should be, Kat is already irresistible. Dating advice from Shakespeare to high school girls: There ain't no better way to make a guy like you than saying no the first time.

But beyond succeeding in being funny and smart at the same time, the movie wins because it pulls off the one thing even trickier: being sweet and sincere. Joseph Gordon Levitt's Cameron is so dopey-eyed over Bianca that it's infectious; but the real payoff is a climactic sonnet reading (how many times have I written those words?) that goes for broke emotionally in a far more honest, sincere way than you'll see in most teen flicks, and pulls it off. No matter how hip and now you dress the kids, love will always be old fashioned.

Mike Liss, who is editing BG's forthcoming book, hopes BG enjoyed editing him for a change.

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