Wednesday 9 February 2011


Based on the lives of the original all girl rock rock group, this Dakota Fanning/Kristen Stewart starring biopic in now out on DVD.
Watch the trailer and read my review after the jump...

After approaching producer Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon) about starting an all girl rock band, Joan Jett (Kristen Stewart) goes on the lookout for a girl to front the group. She meets Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning), a 15 year old David Bowie enthusiast with a troubled family life. Soon the group finds a record contract and heads off in search of fame and fortune, taking in all the excesses of life on the road.

Based on the book by lead singer Cherie Currie, it's her life story that's given the most prominence. Her family life and backstory are the only ones to be fleshed out; the other teenage girls might as well be orphans as their parents as completely absent. They've all got daddy issues, but it's only Currie's who has a visible presence in her life, albeit as a drunken layabout.

I went into this film knowing a little bit about who Joan Jett was, but was wholly unfamiliar with the band that started her career, or the friendship and rivalry she shared with bandmate Cherie Currie. Thanks to the Dazed and Confused soundtrack I knew of the Runaways song Cherrybomb (which features heavily here), but that was about it.

It'd be easy to say that Dakota Fanning's all grown up now, but she really isn't. She's dainty and innocent, and is really just a 15 year old girl playing dress up. This isn't necessarily a criticism, as it makes her perfect for the role of the jailbait lead singer, Cherie Currie. Fanning is clearly not the irritating young Hollywood moppet she was five years ago, with some very frank displays of burgeoning, thrusting sexuality on show. It's a solid lead performance from Fanning, and evidenced from this, it looks like she will make that difficult leap from child actor to genuine talent. I suppose it's better she finds an outlet for her wild side on screen rather than going down the Drew Barrymore/Lindsay Lohan route.

As Kim Fowley, the musical guru and puppet master behind the Runaways, we have Michael Shannon. Always a commanding presence on screen, Shannon literally dwarfs the young girls with his size and bravado. As Fowley he teaches them the do's and don'ts of rock and roll (including how to ward off hecklers), manipulating and whoring them out for his benefit. The girls think they're putting on a show for female empowerment, but Fowley really knows what the audience wants from these girls, organising some suspect photo shoots for his jailbait leads. He's a gigantic, looming figure in the making of the band, and is all the more prominent with his glam rock make-up.

One character who is surprisingly never fully fleshed out is Kristen Stewart's Joan Jett. The film may be based on Cherie Currie's book, but Jett is the one who has remained in the limelight and served as an executive producer on the film. If Jett wanted her story told it could have easily been done, but she comes across as slightly bland compared to the wild child Cherie Currie; all about the music instead of embracing the celebrity lifestyle.

Sex, drugs and rock and roll are all present, but the devastating impact it had on the band members is never fully explored. Pills are popped quite openly by all, but the ill effects are mostly skipped over. If you're going to show the highs of life on the road, you need to balance it out by showing the post-tour lows.

The Runaways is a fun introduction to a band I knew little of, and features some enjoyable musical performances that keep the momentum going (the Japanese TV shoe is a highlight). However, if you're looking for the tell all story of the making of the first all girl rock group, this is the abridged version.


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