Fanning makes girl band biopic click

Post by Kerri Brkich in

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Dakota Fanning & Kristen Stewart star in The Runaways, now on DVD

On July 20th, The Runaways, starring Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning, was released on DVD. Set in the 1970’s, this film biopic was written and directed by Floria Sigismondi and chronicles the formation and eventual breakup of the groundbreaking, all-girl teenaged rock band, The Runaways. The film mainly focuses on the relationship between Joan Jett (Stewart), who was the driving artistic force of the band, and lead singer Cherie Currie (Fanning).

The Runaways took the rock world by storm, jumping on the punk bandwagon, and the girls were raw, tough, and exuded sex—an image carefully fostered and crafted by manager Kim Fowley (played by Michael Shannon), who exclaims upon meeting Currie for the first time, “Jailbait, jackpot!”

The Runaways experienced a meteoric rise, going from playing house parties to touring Japan in short order. While success came quickly, the rock and roll lifestyle came quicker, and for Currie, who was only 15 at the band’s inception, the transition from teenager to sex kitten took a devastating toll. Addled by drugs and pushed into the limelight by Fowley (against the wishes of her bandmates), Currie was unable to cope and quit just two years later, and The Runaways disbanded after only two albums and a tour.

The Runaways is entertaining—gritty and sometimes disturbing, it paints a grim picture of teenagers run amok on tour, with no adult supervision or guidance. Fanning is a standout, and her vulnerable portrayal of Currie gives the film its edge. We watch as she jumps at the chance to leave a dysfunctional home life, and then spirals out of control, as the band and their life of excess on the road becomes her new reality.

Stewart paled in comparison. I enjoyed her performance, but didn’t feel that it was heavy enough, especially while performing on stage: the Joan Jett I remember from the 80’s had substance and was a hard-core rocker, and Stewart’s teenaged version of Jett seemed earnest rather than hard as nails. Where Stewart did shine however, was her take on Jett as a (mildly) tortured artist, especially after The Runaways implode and go their separate ways. Overall, the cast, and the two leads, have great chemistry.

I thought the ending wrapped things up a little too neatly (shocking for Hollywood, I know), and a quick search on Wikipedia shows that The Runaways were not over as soon as Currie departed, and actually continued on for another two albums, fronted by Jett.

The Runaways is definitely worth a watch, and as you can imagine, the soundtrack is excellent and highlights not only Runaways hits, but other 70’s standards. It also gives much deserved credit to a band that paved the way for all future female bands.

- post by Kerri

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