I was very sad today to hear that, just as my parents and I were wrapping up a fiercely fought battle of Hand & Foot at my dining room table, actor Heath Ledger was being pronounced dead in New York of what appeared to be a drug overdose, a possible suicide.
This makes me terribly sad. I loved Heath Ledger in the role of Gabriel Martin in The Patriot and as Sir William Thatcher in A Knight's Tale, but I positively adored him in one of his earliest film performances, which was that of Patrick Verona in the modern day re-telling of my buddy Will Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, titled 10 Things I Hate About You. His character's ridiculous name in that raunchy but lovable "teen" movie (no teenager should ever have seen that movie, believe me, although come to think of it, W.S.'s original was every bit as ribald) was Patrick Verona -- I guess it's kind of hard to get away with calling someone Petruchio in present day southern Cal.
In 10 Things I Hate About You, Katherine "Kat" Stratford (another stupid name), played by actress Julia Stiles, is roughly and rudely wooed by Patrick Verona in the same manner that Petruchio wooed Katherine four hundred years ago. He exasperates the snot out of her, but she's even more exasperated with herself for....noticing....that underneath his annoying exterior, he's actually kind and softhearted. When asked by her English teacher to write her own version of Shakespeare's Sonnet 141, (the one that starts out wryly: In faith, I do not love thee with mine eyes, /For they in thee a thousand errors note), Kat comes up with the poem, dedicated to Patrick, which she titles "10 Things I Hate About You."
I hate the way you talk to me,
and the way you cut your hair.
I hate the way you drive my car.
I hate it when you stare.
I hate your big dumb combat boots,
and the way you read my mind.
I hate you so much it makes me sick;
It even makes me rhyme.
I hate the way you're always right.
I hate it when you lie.
I hate it when you make me laugh,
even worse when you make me cry.
I hate it when you're not around,
and the fact that you didn't call.
But mostly I hate the way I don't hate you.
Not even close,
not even a little bit,
not even at all.
That moment in the movie is wonderful -- the tough girl finally cracks, and the tough boy knows that he can let down his guard and show her that he loves her. And boy. DOES he. With a marching band and a silly song and a goofy, high-kicking dance through the seats of the football stadium, which sounds really stupid, but trust me on this -- it is one of the sweetest, most romantic, fool-for-love movie scenes I can think of, and everyone even has their clothes on.
Where were the Oscar nominations for that role, huh? I enjoyed it a lot for the piece of light, frothy fun it is. It made me a forever fan of Heath Ledger.
And now he's dead at the age of 28, leaving behind a two-year old daughter.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord,
and let perpertual light shine upon him.
May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
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