Written & Directed by Floria Sigismondi
Where & When: Los Feliz 3, Los Angeles, CA. March 29, 2010 7:00 PM
The Runaways were the first, all female, rock and roll band who enjoyed a brief run of moderate success in the 1970's before the band imploded by all of the same things that destroyed plenty of all male rock bands: fame, money, egos and drugs.
The band consisted of Joan Jett (Kristen Stewart), Lita Ford (Scout Taylor-Compton), Sandy West (Stella Maeve) and lead singer, Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning). Jackie Fox, the band's bassist was not included in the film for legal reasons and a fictional character called "Robin" (Alia Shawkat) was created to fill out the band and doesn't utter a single word. The funniest part was when "Robin" is asked a question and the band's producer answers for her.
A teenage Joan idolized Suzi Quatro, a rare, female rocker and wants to start an all girl band. One night, she sees Kim Fowley, (Michael Shannon) a record producer at a club. She gets the nerve to approach him with her idea. He's intrigued and introduces her to drummer, Sandy West. He tells them to call him when they are ready to do something.
The girls add Lita and "Robin" and they contact Mr. Fowley. He's still interested but he feels they need a sexy lead singer. While searching in a club, he finds Cherie Currie (her real name). Cherie is from a broken home and is more interested in a way of escaping her life than singing in a band. He makes her an offer and tells her to prepare a song for an audition. Cherie arrives and is ready to perform "Fever" by Peggy Lee. That is rejected so Kim and Joan come up with an appropriate rock song that Cherie could do. They create the band's signature song, "Cherry Bomb".
Mr. Fowley tries to prepare them for what to expect when they go out on tour but he sent out teenage girls without any parental supervision except for a couple of horny roadies so of course, they are in way over their heads. They are not taken seriously, they have to handle hostile, sexist male bands, they are sexually exploited by everyone (most especially by their manager) and they overindulged in sex and drugs but despite all of this, together these girls rocked. Cherie crumbled under the pressure and soon realized she had to escape in order to survive which soon marked the end of the band.
The problem with "The Runaways" is that there is not one single moment in this film that has not been done or seen before and has been done better in many other bio-pic feature films. Ms. Sigismondi, who made her mark as a music video director, falls into the conventional, cliched traps in trying to tell this true life story and offers no fresh ideas nor any compelling reason to see this film beyond hearing and seeing what an all female band would be like. I'm sure it should be more interesting than what we have here.
The film actually feels like a long music video where everything looks great and they have down perfectly all of the fashion of the time but there is no real emotional connection to any of the characters.
Ms Stewart is spot on in her portrayal of Joan Jett, all the way down to the way she held her guitar. This part is more of a better fit for her than Bella in the "Twilight" films. Ms Fanning, who is now in that awkward stage of her career where she is no longer a child but certainly not yet a woman, does a credible job as Cherie Currie. I just felt she was trying a little too hard to convince the world that she is not a little girl anymore but Dakota, don't worry. I really think you will comfortably follow in the footsteps of another child actress who went on to have a brilliant career as an adult. Although she did struggle a bit as a teen but Jodie Foster did okay for herself.
I think Mr. Shannon was completely miscast in the part of the band's producer and went too far over the top. I have no idea what the real Kim Fowley was like and this could be exactly how he was but it just seemed like Mr. Shannon was performing and not ever a real person.
I can't make any comments on the rest of the band because they are barely present although we see them around Jett and Currie. Their purpose in this film seemed more as background filler instead of what I'm sure was a more integral part of creating the band. You can't call this the story of the Runaways when you only focus on two of the members. They don't even mention what became of them at the end of the film. The Runaways do deserve to have their amazing story told but unfortunately this film does not do their story any justice.