Archive for September 13th, 2010

The Runaways

1975; Glam Rock is making way for Punk, LA teenager Joan Larkin, already calling herself Joan Jett (Kristen Stewart) dresses like Suzi Quatro and dreams of being part of an all girl rock band. She introduces herself to record producer Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon) outside “Rodney’s English Disco” on Sunset Strip. Fowley in turn introduces Joan to drummer Sandy West (Stella Maeve) they quickly recruit other members including singer Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning). Before long they are on tour and signing a record deal, but the cracks are starting to show from the beginning.

First time director Floria Sigismondi has a background as a photographer and music video director, the movie falls into all the expected clichés you would expect under these circumstances, it looks great but is a bit of a mess. I have heard a few people criticising the middle section of the movie that depicts the band on tour during their rise to fame in a disjointed haze. I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt here and take it as a depiction of a drug and alcohol fuelled haze from the point of view of the band members. What I can’t overlook is how the story isn’t about The Runaways, it is actually about Cherie Currie and Joan Jett*. It comes as no surprise considering the movie is based on the book Neon Angel: The Cherie Currie Story by Cherie Currie and Joan Jett worked on the movie as a producer and advisor. I was born in 1975, the year the movie was set, the year the Runaways were formed therefore it doesn’t come as any surprise that I wasn’t a fan first time around. I did however discover their music in the late 80’s via Joan Jett and Lita Ford who were both getting airtime on MTV at the time. So to put it into prospective I knew a little about The Runaways without knowing that much and here lies the problem, I’m not sure I now know anything about the band that I didn’t already know before seeing the movie. This wouldn’t have been noticeable on its own if we learnt something about the band members, we don’t! other than Curries sister and farther we don’t see anything of the bands personal life.

The two great things about the movie are the look and the acting. When I say look I am referring to everything from the costumes and makeup all the way to the photography combining to capture the look of the time perfectly. There are three fantastic performances: Michael Shannon as Kim Fowley, Dakota Fanning as Cherie Currie and Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett. Jett has a very particular way of moving, especially on stage, she almost stoops and sways as she moves looking like a cat about to pounce, Stewart captures this perfectly, she also emulates the rock n roll attitude. Fanning doesn’t necessarily have the same rock and role presence but really captures the emotions of the character who goes thought he greatest transition in the movie. Both have proved over their last few movies to be talented actresses, although only one of them is getting the credit she deserves. Shannon is able to combine creepy and weird with compelling, he does this like no other actor, Kim Fowley is the perfect character for him to play with this. The soundtrack is also pretty good too as you would expect!

I have always wanted to like the band The Runaways more than I do, partly because of Joan Jett and partly for their place in music history. Unfortunately I find myself liking a few of their songs but not the band or their output as a whole. I feel exactly the same way about the movie The Runaways, there are things about it I really like but the movie as a whole is too much of a mess to really like.

Three Stars Out of Five.

*The producers acquired the life story rights of band members Cherie Currie, Joan Jett, Sandy West and producer Kim Fowley but not Lita Ford and Jackie Fox. It has been reported that Fox threatened a lawsuit, this could be why her character doesn’t appear in the movie and is substituted with a fictional character called Robin. Fox was in fact one of five Bass players the band had over time, Joan Jett also filled in on bass when they were without a bassist.

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