Review: The Runaways (Sundance)
PLOT: A biopic about the 70's all-girl rock band, The Runaways; featuring Cherrie Currie (Dakota Fanning), Joan Jett (Kristen Stewart) & Lita Ford (Scout Taylor-Compton). Under the guidance of producer Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon), the band quickly rises to the top of the charts, but their own immaturity combined with Currie's growing drug problem threatens to undo the band before it can reach it's full potential.
REVIEW: Going into the Sundance Film Festival, I knew that at some point, I would have to catch THE RUNAWAYS. Not only was the buzz white hot (mostly due to the presence of TWILIGHT's K-Stew, whose WELCOME TO THE RILEY'S is also playing the fest), but it also falls into the music biopic genre, which I'm a sucker for.
All in all, this is a very interesting film. The Runaways as a band are somewhat forgotten these days, probably the most noteworthy thing about them was that this was the launching ground for Joan Jett, and Lita Ford, both of whom became rock goddesses. According to the film, the main culprit behind the band's demise was the fact that lead singer Cherrie Currie quickly became a junkie once the band hit the big time.
With Dakota Fanning as Currie, you know that even if the film was bad, it would be getting loads of press, as it features the former child-star, snorting coke, popping pills, and lounging around in barely-there skin-tight jump suits. Considering Fanning's still only fifteen (and was only fourteen when this was filmed), I was somewhat disturbed by the overt sexualization of the character, but, alas, Currie was about the same age as Fanning when the events in the film took place, and that's the way she was sold- so I suppose the filmmakers are being truthful. Discomfort aside, Fanning's excellent in the role, and she's truly maturing into an excellent actress, and this film gives her a juicy role to sink her teeth into. My only problem with her in the film was that too much time was spent on Currie, who's the star of the show. Other than Joan Jett, the rest of the band-mates are seriously marginalized, with Lita Ford coming off as a one-dimensional bitch, while the others (including Alia Shawkat - blink and you'll miss her role) drift into the background.
While she's really playing second banana to Fanning, Kristen Stewart makes an excellent Joan Jett. Truthfully, I wish THE RUNAWAYS had focused on Jett, as she was the one who really broke out after the band's dissolution (her I LOVE ROCK N' ROLL album is a classic) and, to me anyways, her arc was just as interesting as Fanning's, all though considering Jett didn't have the same drug problems, it probably wasn't as attractive to the filmmakers. One thing that is addressed is Jett's sexuality, with her getting it on with a bi-curious Currie in a tastefully shot, and fairly tame love scene.
As good as Stewart and Fanning are, the main scene-stealer here is Michael Shannon, as the flamboyant Kim Fowley. Shannon's slowly but surely establishing himself as one of the great character actors of our time (he pretty much stole REVOLUTIONARY ROAD from Leonardo DiCaprio & Kate Winslet), and he's hilarious as the off-the-wall Fowley. He steals every scene he's in, particularly during the first act, where he teaches the girls how to be proper rock stars (the scene where he teaches Currie how to sing 'Cherry Bomb' literally had me rolling in the aisles). The only problem with Shannon, is that he's so good, you'll be waiting for him to re-appear every time he's offscreen, and he's not around for much of the second half.
Another problem with THE RUNAWAYS is that the editing isn't quite up to snuff. Too many scenes in the film seem disjointed, with them either ending abruptly, or going on far too long. The film only runs about 110 minutes, but it feels longer. It really drags during the final act, and it probably could have been tightened up somewhat. That said, THE RUNAWAYS is still a fairly good film, and I have a feeling that THE RUNAWAYS is going to be a sleeper, as K-Stew's TWILIGHT popularity is really going to open this up to a crowd (tweens) that otherwise might have never given it the time of day. As much as I dislike the TWILIGHT films, if she continues to use her clout from that franchise to get films like these made, than she's on the right path. Unlike many of her contemporaries, Stewart seems to want to build a good body of work, which is the key to longevity. THE RUNAWAYS, while not a perfect film, is nonetheless a very entertaining one, and definitely a flick worth checking out.
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