Acting

Movie Monologue Monday – Julia Stiles in 10 Things I Hate About You

This week’s Movie Monologue Monday is featuring Julia Stiles’ sensitive performance in 10 Things I Hate About You.

The film is a loose adaptation of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew set in a high school with Stiles as the Kate character.

This monologue comes from the end of the film.

What I love about this performance (delivered in one take by the way) is her incredible attention to physical detail.

Here are some details I noticed:

  • Before she start speaking she clears her throat, pulls on her blouse, fiddles with her hair, then takes a deep breath.
  • The cover of her book flops around as she speaks.
  • She tries to make eye contact with students in the class but can’t hold it.
  • She bobs her head on “even makes me rhyme” indicating that she thinks it’s a dumb part of her poem.
  • She sighs, and stumbles as she goes into the meatier part of the poem.
  • When she’s finally able to make eye contact with Patrick (the Petruchio character) she starts crying.

These details are packed into a 40 second speech. These things are not accidental, they are specific choices. Every one of them. And they all illuminate the character and the story. You could watch this piece without knowing anything about the movie and it would have the same impact.

One of the great bits of acting advice is “Don’t play the end” which basically means don’t let your character be aware of where the monologue or scene is going to end. But there’s an exception and it’s illustrated by this performance. She actually does have an inkling of how it’s going to end. She tries to fight it but her emotions overcome her.

Class Exercise

Watch the monologue with the sound off paying attention and make note of every physical action she makes.

Poll the class for their observations. For each action ask these questions:

  • Why do you think the actor chose that action?
  • What does the action tell you about the character?

Lastly, I’ma gonna avoid a big rant here but I can’t stand when movies pump in music to tell me how I’m supposed to feel. This scene does not need that song. Perfectly lovely song, fits the mood of the piece, but it doesn’t improve the scene. It cheapens the relationship between performer and audience. It’s a signal that the filmmaker doesn’t trust that we’ll connect or feel the impact of the piece.

About the author

Craig Mason