The Runaways were a great band. They were the precursor to the Grrrl Riot Bands of the early to mid 90’s and spawned the successful solo careers of Joan Jett and Heavy Metal Queen Lita Ford. Of course their success was short lived but their “rise to fall” Rock N’ Roll story couldn’t resist Hollywood’s siren call and thus was born The Runaways, the feature length film in which focuses on the relationship between Joan Jett and Cherie Currie the original lead singer of The Runaways.
The film was of course written and directed by Floria Sigismondi, a music video director, which was adapted from Cherrie Currie’s memoir Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway. The film is obviously very indicative of its time period because of the way the film was shot and what was used to film this movie. Being that it took place in the mid to late 70’s and early 80’s, the look and feel of this film is perfect and Sigismondi does take a few experimental visual liberties which complete the overall look and feel of the film.
Unfortunately the film’s aesthetics is the strongest asset. Everything else falls short. Dakota Fanning (who plays Cherri Currie) looks the part but her performance is too mannered and it is too stiff. For Fanning, who obviously has a lot of talent and charisma, it is a shame that she downplayed Cherrie Currie to the point that she was barely noticeable. Not to mention, is it just me or is every movie that Dakota Fanning has recently starred in trying to make her into a teenage prostitute. Not that I have anything wrong with her trying to go for challenging and more adult roles, but please do remember that when watching this film, keep in mind that she is still 15 years old and still in high school.
Michael Shannon, on the other hand, plays Kim Fowley to the point that reaches “camp” territory. His performance was so over-the-top, that not even Tim Roth’s performance in Rob Roy couldn’t top that (and believe me when I say this, Tim Roth really upped the “campiness” in his portrayal of Archibald).
One of the other big issues of this film is the plot. Even though the plot was based off of Ms. Currie’s experiences, it still remains formulaic. Even though the aesthetics make the film seem different from all of the other Rock N’ Roll Biopics, the underdeveloped plot is what makes the film formulaic. With Sigismondi’s previous works, you would think that she would have taken this film to a different direction and made it into a much fresher take on the Rock N’ Roll biopic. Of course this film also felt more like a feminine version of Todd Haines’ Velvet Goldmine (a far superior film about the music scene in the 70’s and 80’s).
Not all of the acting in this film was stiff. The only actress in the film that really connected with their character and gave their character life and vitally (and I really hate to say this because of her previous works) was Kristen Stewart. Despite the fact that I dislike her immensely because of the Twilight Franchise, Stewart really stood out in this film. She was likable, tough, spunky, ballsy and a total “badass”, a phrase that Kim Fowley would use to describe her. It is clear that out of all the actors, Stewart did her homework (pardon the pun) and then some with her portrayal of Joan Jett. Kristen, I’m sure Joan Jett is really proud of your performance. In my opinion, out of all the films that she has done, I believe that this is the one role and movie that Kristen Stewart was genuinely interested in doing. Maybe her performances in this film and in Adventureland might actually coax me into actually liking her. Then again, she is still signed on to that Twilight Franchise so every time I see her, I still want to punch her in the face.
Overall, The Runaways is not exactly a “Runaway” hit, but it is an interesting take on the band’s history and that period of time. The look and feel of the film is superb, but the acting in this movie (except for Stewart’s) is what prevented me from truly liking it. The story is extremely formulaic despite the aesthetics and the film drags on a little too long than it should have.
For those of you who are fans of Joan Jett or The Runaways, this is a treat and you will not be disappointed, but for those who want a much better Rock N’ Roll film, may I recommend The Doors, Velvet Goldmine, Pink Floyd's The Wall, Tommy or Almost Famous?