Facebook Twitter


the-runaways-stills-the-runaways-movie-11250398-1545-1131Few tales of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll contain as much sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll as the tawdry tale of The Runaways. An underage all girl rock band—they billed themselves as “Genuine Jailbait”—spawned from the Sunset Strip’s late 1970s seedy underbelly, they imploded in 1979 after four tumultuous years. “The Runaways,” a new film written and directed by former video helmer Floria Sigismondi, sees two “Twilight” co-stars leave behind repressed romance for life on the road.

Set back when you could still drink a bottle of stolen booze in the shade of the Hollywood sign without being arrested for trespassing, the movie focuses on two glue sniffing, glam rock obsessed tough girls named Joan Jett (Kristen Stewart) and Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning). Disaffected SoCal teens, they see an exit from their mundane suburban lives through rock ‘n’ roll. Unfortunately their ticket out comes in the form of impresario Kim Fowley, a record producer and self proclaimed “King Hysteria.” He cobbles together the band, trains them to be rock stars, convinced that these “bitches are going to be bigger than the Beatles.” Before they can play Shea Stadium, however, the band breaks up—knee deep in ego, drug abuse and bad management.

Sigismondi has made the movie equivalent of an ear blistering blast of feedback. Like the band’s two-minute-forty-five-second guitar punk tunes, “The Runaways” is loud, fast and dirty. If you want depth wait for the rock ‘n’ roll bio of Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Here Sigismondi leaves behind the surreal feel of her videos and visual art, instead opting for a straightforward (although probably mostly fictional) retelling of the rapid rise and equally rapid free fall of the band. Its “Behind the Music” formulaic but Sigismondi layers on so many other rock ‘n’ roll elements that the lack of experimentation in the telling of the tale isn’t a minus.

Kristen Stewart is the name above the title star, and she does bring her brooding Brando best to the role of Joan Jett, but this movie belongs to Dakota Fanning and Michael Shannon, who hands in a flamboyant performance.

As Kim Fowley he has a more than a passing resemblance to Beef from “Phantom of the Paradise,” and like that character he is campy, dangerous and slightly unhinged. An egomaniac, he introduces himself as, “Kim Fowley, record producer. You’ve heard of me.” It’s a bravura performance that could have gone very wrong in the hands of a less committed actor, but Shannon pulls it off with wild aplomb.

Fanning shines, but in a much more low key way. Low key, but not low wattage. Fowley describes her outer layer as part Bardot, part Bowie but she plays Currie as damaged goods; a young girl with a crappy home life and faraway look in her eye. Fanning quietly gives Currie an unspoken inner life as she slowly falls apart, and whether she’s smashing pills with her platform heels and snorting the powder off the floor or rocking it out on stage there is a core of sadness to her that is so real you can almost reach out and touch it. It’s the most demanding role in the film and Fanning aces it.

Kim Fowley described the music of The Runaways as the “sound of hormones raging” and in her film Sigismondi transcends the formulaic aspects of the story by capturing the gritty spirit of in-your-face teenage rebellion.

Comments are closed.