Monday, September 06, 2010

The Runaways

Written & Directed by: Floria Sigismondi

Starring: Dakota Fanning, Kristen Stewart, Michael Shannon

My Rating: 7/10

The Runaways tells the story of the now relatively obscure band that began the career of the now legendary Joan Jett. The Runaways may be obscure now, but they made quite a splash in their day. Joan Jett and Cherie Currie were international icons and the concept of an all-female punk-rock band was unheard of before them. Their songs were simple and not exactly profound but the girls’ raucous joie de vivre and Cherie’s tendency to “flaunt her wares” ensured that they became an overnight sensation.

The film tells the girl’s story from just before they met. Joan (Stewart) was a tearaway, teenage punk who liked men’s clothes and loud electric guitar. Cherie (Fanning) was a good girl gone bad who cut off her long, angelic, blonde hair and performed at her school talent show miming David Bowie in spandex and face paint. Joan meets legendary manager Kim Fowley outside a club and begs him to listen to her band. He instantly sees the potential marketing sensation and he and Joan handpick Cherie randomly from the crowd to become their singer.

The rest, as they say, is history. We’ve all seen this film before. It is your typical biopic, all sex and drugs and rock n roll, and then the inevitable fall from grace. I don’t judge biopics for being formulaic. It’s very difficult to deviate from the conventions of the genre. So, conventions aside, this is a decent film that works in what it sets out to do: give a snapshot of the world The Runaways came from. The visuals, the colours, the costumes and the music are all vibrant and exciting. The girls are sexy, spunky and fearless in their performances and the chemistry between the two leads is perfect. The relationship that is built between Joan and Cherie is both intimate and awkward. Neither girl quite understands the other but both are swept away in the excitement of their friendship and the whirlwind of their new-found fame. Of course the sex and drugs that were once so enticing soon become a problem, especially for the naive and bratty Cherie.

The appeal of the sweaty, sexy, exciting club scene is what makes this movie stand out. However, it loses its way somewhat towards the end as the band’s downfall is handled lazily and feels a bit tacked on. If you like your girls slutty, your music trashy and your clothes held together with safety pins then this movie is for you. However, if you’re looking for a profound analysis of the music and historical context of The Runaways, you’ll come away disappointed.

 - Charlene Lydon (from:

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