The Runaways Movie Review
By Anne Brodie Mar 19, 2010, 20:33 GMT
The film is based on the true story of the all-girl punk band in the 1970s which included Lita Ford and Joan Jett. ...more
This isn’t a movie about Joan Jett; it’s an homage to her bandmate, lead singer Cheri Curry. Jett’s pretty much a bystander, through the script and Kristen Stewart’s oddly nonchalant portrayal of her. While Jett’s name is remembered today, some forty years after the Runaways made history as the first ever all female hard rock band, Curry, the iconoclastic Bowie obsessed 16 year old who drew the heat, has all but disappeared.
But like all things, good, mediocre, and bad in pop culture, Curry’s back with a bang. Floria Sigismondi’s screenplay, based on Curry’s autobiography Neon Angel, revives the intense rock life she and the band lived, through her eyes. They were pioneers, and tested the limits of sexism, independence and their passion for music. It’s heavy stuff especially considering her age.
It’s not like today’s young moviegoers have ever heard of Joan Jett or the Runaways let alone Cherie Curry, so the filmmakers takes a bit of a chance. Thankfully Curry’s story is interesting and rock video director Sigismondi’s signature Goth style adds a ferocious edge. Not that the story needs it. Her unique visual style makes the hard knocks Runaways story harder and anti-pretty but compelling.
Dakota Fanning is amazingly raw as Curry, a meaty role that begins when she’s fifteen years old and a rebel, takes her to the heights of rock and roll stardom and straight down to the valley of despond. She’d been desperate to join Jett’s all girl band, shaped by music entrepreneur Kim Fowley but she couldn’t bring herself to repeat the suggestive lyrics or enjoy the down and dirty lifestyle. But it was a short trip from mastering the lyrics and the pose; to everything else Fowley offered including drugs and money. He was an abusive jerk who sent the girls on the road alone because he didn’t like traveling, leaving 16 year olds fending for themselves, as roadies, hotel managers and fans preyed on them. It was a sad life. Curry seems to have been painfully aware of it at the time.
Curry and Jett grew up in what people like to call ‘dysfunctional’ families, and came to look on the band as a default family. But Currie began to draw away when she realised she’d had enough, and that nothing in that world would heal her previous wounds.
The real Runways look so tough and confident in the bands photos, with defiant sneers that made them look dangerous. The film reminds us that they were just kids who wanted to be famous. And famous they became, in Japan anyway, where they were treated like rock royalty. Fame was less sensational at home. The film’s look back at an important time in the history of rock music has zero sentimentality. It’s surprisingly tough to the point of being uncomfortable at times. These were children after all.
Written by Floria Sigismondi, based on Cherie Curry’s book Neon Angel
Directed by Floria Sigismondi
Opens: March 19
MPAA: Rated R for language, drug use and sexual content - all involving teens
Runtime: 105 minutes