August 1, 2010
Review - " The Runaways " - (on DVD) By Roland Hansen
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Directed by: Floria Sigismondi
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning, Michael Shannon,
Tatum O’Neal, Scout Taylor-Compton
So here we are, once again, at the 100th fully qualified movie for
the year. Like last year I didn't notice until after the fact that I was
at the 100 mark in movies for the year. This year I hit that
milestone 3 weeks earlier than 2009. If I had been aware of the
approaching honor I may have actually chosen this film
consciously. Being a big fan of both Kristen Stewart and Dakota
Fanning I had high hopes for this movie and probably would have
picked it to be #100. However, much like last year, I truly think it's
better this way. Instead of my making a conscious decision let
fate, random chance, make the selection. So here it is, the 100th
fully qualified movie of 2010 . "The Runaways"!
Sex! Drugs! Rock ‘n’ roll! With all of these sure to be included,
The Runaways already had a head start to become a fun movie
before its screenplay was even written. Too bad the final product
wound up as one of the most clichéd and boring band films ever
The Runaways was marketed as a biopic that would tell the story
of the sweet but short-lived American all-girl rock band with the
same name, headlined by vocalist Cherie Currie and rhythm
guitarist Joan Jett. If this movie is guilty of anything, it would
certainly be false advertising. The Runaways isn't necessarily a
terrible movie, but it’s too heavily focused on Currie’s character,
rather than telling the story of the entire band, which was an
ultimate letdown for me.
Based on the true story of the 1970s all-girl band of the same name, “The Runaways” stars Kristen Stewart as a young Joan
Jett and Dakota Fanning as Cherie Currie, who is recruited at 15 to become the band’s lead singer. The film follows the girls
as they navigate the sexist music industry, find stardom abroad and eventually reach the demise that led Jett to become a
popular solo artist.
What should have been one of the most illuminating aspects of the film is Jett’s journey from a confused teenager to one of
the best performers of her generation. But the screenplay turns her into a walking cliché, following her from a guitar lesson
with a teacher who tells her “girls don’t play electric guitar,” to ripping-up, safety-pinning and spray-painting a Sex Pistols T-
shirt to wear on stage — that’s how you know she’s cooler than the other girls in the group.
The film also hints at a struggle for Jett to understand her sexual preference, but shies away from ever explaining it. It’s a
shame, because if this was supposed to be a film about teenage girls coming of age, that would most likely have been a
bigger deal for the young Jett. Instead, the movie weirdly plays her off as somewhat of a sexual predator, tempting her
bandmates with what seems like experimentation instead of relationships.
in a way that made me feel as if this movie would tell every Runaway member’s story. The tagline has the word “they’re” in it.
The trailer is narrated using the word “we”. Using those words in advertising – not to mention titling the film The Runaways –
is going to lead a lot of patrons to believe they’re going to be watching a film focused more on the entire band instead of just
the band’s singer. Therefore, the way this film was advertised was horribly misleading, and in the long run may harm the film
rather than aid it.
Another problem with the story is how its actors handle it. The three or four other girls in the band barely get any screen time,
let alone many lines — especially the actress who plays Lita Ford (Scout Taylor-Compton), who found considerable fame
after her time with The Runaways.
Now despite this film’s dishonesty, there are a number of positive reasons to go see this flick. The music in the movie is
absolutely electric, and the vocals done by both Fanning and Stewart sound very good. Michael Stewart’s portrayal of Fowley
is pure brilliance. The eccentric, over-the-top lessons he gives to the girls on how to act like boys on and off the stage are
extremely hilarious, certainly the most memorable parts of the movie for me.
And how about Dakota Fanning? After seeing this film,
it’s hard to believe that she is only four years removed
from portraying the young Fern in Charlotte’s Web. If
ever there was a role for her to break out of that “Child
Actress” typecast she is so often associated with, this
was certainly the one to do it. We’ve seen her as a
rape victim in the movie Hounddog, but this film puts
her in situations we’ve never seen her in before. Be
prepared to witness Fanning willingly giving quickies,
seducing her roadie in a risqué corset outfit, and
snorting coke and chugging booze with the rest of the
rebellious rockers. Once you get over the fact that
you’re watching this former child star kissing Stewart
and snorting drugs off the floor in skimpy lingerie, you’ll
discover she’s still a pretty believable actress. Dakota
was given the majority of the screen time in this movie,
and she takes advantage of it to the utmost degree.
Great performance from a very gifted actress. Look for
her to be cast into some more adult-oriented roles from here on in.
Kristen Stewart plays Joan Jett with skill, acting like a real badass throughout the entire film. The thing that bothers me is how
secondary her character is; a demerit for director/writer Floria Sigismondi. I personally would’ve liked to see more of the story
dedicated to Jett, and it’s surprising how little of Jett’s background was revealed to us with the actual Joan Jett serving as
executive producer for this movie. If not for the fact that The Runaways went through six different bassists (the one in the
movie was a fictitious character) during their brief tenure, the film could have been more interesting with the use of an
ensemble cast. Sadly this was not the case, and The Runaways really isn’t about The Runaways at all. It’s more like the
Cherie Currie story. And for people expecting to garner some knowledge about the historic rock and roll band, you’re going
to leave the theater in a pretty disappointed state of mind.
A story like this had so much material to work with and could have been a real standout among the numerous music biopics
that came before it. What resulted, instead, is a story you’ve seen a hundred times before, and it will leave you feeling cold
and unaffected. You’ll wonder if this is all that really happened with the band, because ultimately, it’s not much. Either the
writers left a lot of juicy details out, or the girls really were this boring and predictable.
The Runaways. The world’s very first all-girl rock
and roll band. Finally, the girls get to kick a little
behind and bask in the limelight for a little bit. Right?
Well…all of that may be true, but the way this film
was written just doesn’t give this historic group
the justice they deserve. Instead, Fanning’s
character is the one that is in the spotlight for a
good 85-90% of the film, something I did not really
The movie is based on Currie’s autobiography
/memoir which is titled Neon Angel: A Memoir
of a Runaway. In retrospect, it is kind of
understandable why most of the film is about
her doings and activities on the road while trying to
maintain a normal relationship with her family back
home in California. However, the film was marketed
There’s nothing new here that will make you feel like
The Runaways were a distinct enough band to
deserve a feature-length film dedicated to them. The
Runaways is more or less a ch-ch-cherry BOMB.
Despite its good music, and solid acting, the film is
too guilty of false advertising to be salvaged from
the forgettable file. If you’re really interested in
learning more about the world’s first all-girl rock
band, watch a documentary or check out a couple of
their albums. If you’re strictly a Cherie Currie fan,
this film is for you. But if that isn't the case, don’t let
Hollywood runaway with your money. It’s not worth it.
The performances by Stewart and Fanning elevate
The Runaways to a little better than mediocre. While
watching Kristen bounce around braless and give
lingerie clad Dakota a couple liplock's is worth
seeing you'll ultimately have to walk out of this one
and won't really mind doing so.