Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Runaways

By Sati. Sunday, October 9, 2011 , , , , , , ,
(106 min, 2010)
Floria Sigismondi
Floria Sigismondi (screenplay), Cherie Currie (book)
Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning and Michael Shannon
Queens of Noise

My friend has this thing, that no matter how drunk or even passed out he may be, whenever he hears „I Love Rock'n'Roll' by Joan Jett playing in the background, he just starts dancing. Everyone knows this song. But I'm sure not many people, myself included where aware of Jett's previous project called „The Runaways”.

Based on "Neon Angel," the memoir of lead singer Cherie Currie, the movie revolves around the first rock'n'roll girl band formed in 70's by Jett and other girls, directed by manager Kim Fowley. Soon the band chooses its lead singer – Cherie Curie, barely 15 year old girl of intense presence– looking like half Bardot, half Bowie.

The movie is definitely everything you expect from it to be – it is wild, rebellious and loud. I like movies about music such as „Velvet Goldmine” or „Almost famous”. Sure, the formula is always the same, as it follows the real life – epic rise to fame and than painful fall, mostly due to drugs and alcohol. But „the Runaways” are different because, in such a formerly dominated by man area as rock'n'roll, group of teenage girls shouting about sex, jail and violence from the stage is immensely impressive and quite shocking.

Joan Jett is played by Kristen Stewart, known worldwide from her performance as Bella Swan in „Twilight” movies. Even there Stewart showed incredible potential, but if there is someone doubting her acting abilities he or she should watch „The Runaways” - all of those doubts will perish in a second. She is perfect – she is cool, wild, but also very empathetic and kind. She is capable of pissing on somebody's guitar and reconciling her fellow band members, she is the true heart of this movie. Not only is she extremely believable, she gains audience's trust and sympathy as the true heroine of the film. Stewart met Jett (who is the executive producer of the movie) and she clearly did her homework – her posture, her attitude, her look – it's all not only very close to real Joan Jett, but also a homage to her.
But the movie's focus is set on Cherie played by Dakota Fanning. She is truly outstanding in her role, this part was very difficult and Fanning showed incredible bravery, not for the first time in her career. She emits both strength and vulnerability, she creates very complex performance – at certain parts it almost seems that despite her young age, Cherie knows all too much about the world around her, how to manipulate, how to gain what she wants. At other moments she seems incredibly lost, as if her mind was scattered, shattered to the point she was unable of making any choices or she just didn't care to make them at all. There is something hiding in her eyes in this film – sadness, despair and at certain parts of the film – feeling of superiority and illusion of control.

Both actresses have pretty good voices and it's actually them we hear singing in many scenes. The performances on stage are well filmed - the director of the movie has a lot of experience – she directed some of my favorite music videos ever - „Blue Orchid” by The White Stripes, „Supermassive Black Hole” by Muse and „Megalomaniac” by Incubus. The movie's soundtrack is fantastic, it reminded me of legendary ones for „Velvet Golmine” and „Trainspotting”. The visual side is amazing too – some of the shots in the movie are incredibly inspired and create painful contrast with girls' off stage reality.

The movie doesn't dwell much into girl's background except for Currie – we see her strong relationship with her sister, her alcoholic father and her mother who abandoned her daughters. We don't know much about Jett's back story, the movie focuses mostly on implying how big her passion for music was – we see her playing guitar whenever she can, making her own t-shirts worshiping „Sex Pistols”. Jett was focused on music, not on fame or publicity, Currie was in the band because she wanted exactly that – to be noticed. She had no problem with doing outrageous things in order to gain more attention. As it often happens, her behavior was what broke up the band eventually.

A lot of publicity was gained for the movie due to alleged graphic sex scenes between Fanning and Stewart – those scenes are actually quite subtle and sensual, with timeless “I wanna be your dog” by The Stooges played in the background. This is the movie focused on characters, not on sex or outrageous scenes.

The film is surprisingly good - I thought I'm going to see something like “Thirteen” but instead I saw a movie that is closer to “Velvet Goldmine” than anything I've seen recently. All three performances from previously mentioned Stewart and Fanning and very good Michael Shannon as their manager are the reason enough to see the movie. Don't get discouraged if you hate “Twilight” and everything related to it – you will miss a lot!



  1. I wanted to like this. I enjoyed the performances of Michael Shannon, Kristen Stewart, and Dakota Fanning.

    I was just bothered by the dramatization of the whole thing and I felt there wasn't enough about Lita Ford and the other members of the group. Especially since there were 2 different bass players for the band.

    I'm a stickler of sorts for accuracy unless it's meant to be exaggerated. The whole thing kind of pissed me off a bit and I thought it didn't do enough to tell the real story. It's one of the reasons why I don't like music bio-pics very much unless it's done right.

    1. I quite liked that the focus was on Cherrie and Joan. I did not know the real story prior to seeing this and it worked for me well as a stand alone film, perhaps because of that.

  2. I heard that Kristen Steward was good in this. I guess she'll just have to live with being pigeon-holed for being in Twilight. Then again Snow White And The Huntsman provides a great opportunity to break away from people's perception.

    1. I think if people weren't that quick to judge and watch some of her other movies like Speak, Cake Eaters, Yellow Hankerchief or this one that wrong perception would change a long time ago.