Film Review: THE RUNAWAYS

Director: Floria Sigismondi
Writer: Floria Sigismondi (screenplay), Cheri Currie (book)
Release date: April 9th, 2010
Running Time 106 minutes
Starring: Dakota Fanning, Kristen Stewart, Michael Shannon

Does it make sense to say that sixteen year old actresses do not often have the depth of experience or the necessary chops to play sixteen year old girls like the ones in the band The Runaways? Or that biopics only succeed about ten percent of the time? I think these are the two most compelling reasons for the failure of The Runaways to ever catch fire for me. This was a film I wanted to like—but didn’t much.

PLOT: The Runaways tells the story of the formation of the hard-rock group of the same name in 1975. Although Joan Jett is the most familiar name in the band, this story, based on Cherie Currie’s book, is mostly seen from Currie’s perspective. It is her family situation we come to know (slightly) and it is her addiction to drugs we watch play out.

Kim Fowley, a hard as nails male rock manager of the era, put this group together, based on the notion that a female group could be as hard- hitting and as raucous as male groups of the time. This need to match The Stones or David Bowie in wildness and chutzpah sunk this group in a short time. The girls had one or two quasi-hits, took a trip to Japan, and disbanded after Currie left the group, half-dead from drugs and family problems. Jett went on to further success; Currie finally straightened out and counseled other drug abusers. She is now a chain-saw artist.

For about twenty minute, this film had the energy and verve it needed to succeed. But then it settled into the usual clichés about the post-sixties era and drugs. It was directed much like a rock video. Supporting actors were embarrassingly amateurish. Only the performance of Michael Shannon, as a drill sergeant manager, held much interest. Ideas such as lesbianism seemed only to exist for brief titillation. I don’t know the sexual preferences of Jett and Currie, but these issues needed to be more fully explored or dropped. Jett was involved in this production. I think she would have been better served by telling her own story rather than the one of Cherie Currie and The Runaways.

Patti Abbott writes crime fiction short stories. She hosts a look at Forgotten Books every Friday with readers, writers and reviewers at http://www.pattinase.blogspot.com/. She hopes you’ll join in.