Starring: Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning, Michael Shannon, Scout Taylor Compton, Stella Maeve, Alia Shawkat
Director: Floria Sigismondi
Writer(s): Floria Sigismondi, Cherie Currie (novel)
Cinematography: Benoit Debie
Original Score/Music: The Runaways, Various
Running Time: 106 Mins.
Rock biopic’s are nothing new, from The Doors to Walk the Line you know the score, singer/band is discovered, usually overcoming insurmountable odds and hit a couple of bumps on the road to uber-success with the filmic version of said stories usually choosing the potent combination of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll as a third act to heighten the dramatic elements before finally seeing the singer/band come right in the end with eventual success to provide said film with a (relatively) happy ending. The Runaways, unsurprisingly, follows this formula to a T though it does so with a little spark and a trio of great performances.
What The Runaways likely won’t have is the same level of interest as many other biopic’s given that as a band they were only together for 4 years, and add to that the fact that they never truly made the same kind of long-lasting appealing that would leave their names (band or solo artists) seared into worldwide public consciousness as say Johnny Cash, The Sex Pistols or Jim Morrison have been. As a byproduct of this their musical output is likely only going to be recognisable to big fans of the 70’s rock/punk movement or, more obviously, those who lived through the period. This somewhat clashes with the casting of Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning, both current hot young things that have a predominantly teenage fan base brought up on Twilight and Radiohead, something which will leave a mixed target audience and cries of Joan who? or Kristen who? … delete as applicable!
This problem will likely only be an issue for the money men as The Runaways is as likely to flop here as it did in America purely for that reason, mixed marketing, which is a great shame as Kristen Stewart’s Twi-hard fans could learn a lot from The Runaways, not least how to make a film that has actual acting and some excellent direction.
Shot with the grain of a 70’s film, imagine The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s cinematography and you will understand, we open on a drop of blood falling from Dakota Fanning as she has her first period, somewhat shocking and wholly unexpected it’s a fair representation of whats to come, raw girl power before The Spice Girls arrived and made it palatable for the masses. Joan Jett (Stewart) and Cherie Currie (Fanning) were figures for female empowerment long before the world of po music got hold of them and neutered them down to what they ultimately didn’t want to be, sex symbols.
The introduction’s to Currie and Jett are brief, all the boxes are ticked, troubled childhood, weak or no parent role models and a disregard for the opposite sex the bordered on disgust, the thing was these were young girls (15 and 16) and it is that that manager and producer Kim Fowley (masterfully played by Michael Shannon) uses in crafting what he cites as the worlds first all girl rock’n’roll band, initially allowing their independent wiles to shine through before ultimately clashing as they see through his get rich scheme, in the end as with all music it boils down to the age old question of “do you sell out for the money?” and in this instance, as with most, the sparks fly as fast as the clichés.
Overlook the inevitable plotting though and savour Shannon, Fanning and in particular Stewart who once again proves she can do more than pout and sulk, while Fanning slowly makes the ascension from child actress to a fully fledged leading lady, and based on this evidence she is more than capable of both heading up a strong cast and standing out as the fine actress she was destined to be. Add to this some great singing courtesy of the lead pair and it makes for an entertaining and involving drama, even if you have a clue who Joan or Kristen are!
The Runaways was never going to be a smash hit, but that shouldn’t deter anyone from seeing it for some good flourishes in both direction and performance, even if you haven’t a clue who those involved in front or behind the camera are!