The Runaways (2010)
Directed by: Floria Sigismondi
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning, Michael Shannon
Screenplay by: Floria Sigismondi
MPAA rating: R
Run Time: 102 minutes
Even if you love rock and roll, you won’t love The Runaways, which depicts the days before Joan Jett became a well-known music icon.
This movie is a bio-pic of Jett’s first band, The Runaways, taking place during the late 1970s. Years later, when she created the band, The Blackhearts, Joan Jett became famed for recordings of songs such as “I Love Rock and Roll” and “Crimson and Clover.”
Unfortunately, the music you will hear in this movie is as tiresome as it is childish. That may be because all the members of The Runaways were under 17.
The only two members of the five-member band that stand out in my memory are Joan Jett, played by Kristen Stewart, and Cherie Currie, played by Dakota Fanning. Both actors are most recently known for their roles in the Twilight Saga movies.
Regrettably, I think Kristen Stewart might have been confused and thought she was playing a vampire in this movie. She is pale, wears black, mopes and stays awake all night. She doesn’t display any of the drive, talent or personality that made Joan Jett into a rock superstar. Dakota Fanning portrays Cherie Currie as frequently stoned which means she is unconscious for stretches of the movie.
As depicted, the band was essentially created in 1975 by manager Kim Fowley, played by a wildly overacting Michael Shannon. Both Joan Jett and Cherie Currie were hanging around various music clubs when Fowley met Jett and Currie and appointed Currie as lead singer.
This crowning of Currie as the lead singer and resident sex kitten creates several boring plot elements such as the band’s in-fighting and Currie’s eventual decision to quit. We also see tiresome swirling camera shots and flashing lights representing the persistently stoned state of the band.
The film’s dialogue is astoundingly corny. Happily, it is often drowned out by the squeak of the leather the band constantly wears.
The only truly out of the ordinary aspect to the story was that manager Kim Fowley believed in the band. Instead of being a clichéd manager who rips off the band, Fowley sets them up on a successful tour of Japan and eventually finds them a record deal.
I was struck by the limited ways 1970’s musicians could reach their fans. The Runaways were somewhat popular overseas but not in America. Even assuming the band members did have absentee or alcoholic parents who let them go on tour, today’s media would be obsessed with a bunch of 15 and 16 year old girls traveling by themselves — their only company being copious amounts of drugs and booze, and one older male roadie for sexual adventure. Today their exploits would have millions of hits on You Tube and friends on Facebook whether their music was any good or not.
As I was watching this interminable-seeming movie, I was thinking of a much better movie that covered similar ground. It too showed young people in the 1970’s rock and roll world, but was done with subtlety, charm and a refreshing lack of clichés. Don’t waste your time on The Runaways. Watch Almost Famous (2000) and listen to Joan Jett and the Blackhearts instead.
© SCA Schulman 2010