Director: Floria Sigismondi
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning, Michael Shannon, Stella Maeve, Scout Taylor-Compton, Alia Shawkat
Synopsis: This film is a biopic concerning the meteoric rise of the all-girl teenage rock group The Runaways, which continues right through to the just as rapid deterioration of the group. It is based on a book written by lead singer Cherie Currie, , and produced by the still-popular guitarist Joan Jett.
I bought this film on Blu-Ray many months ago, but only recently had the chance to sit down and watch it. I was of two minds about whether I would enjoy this film. I do not always enjoy biopics, despite how good word on the street about the film can be. I was also not sure if the good things I had read were just a result of seeing Kristen Stewart playing anything but the vacuous Bella Swan, and despite being aware of Dakota Fanning’s talent, choosing this role seemed a forced decision to try to be seen as more adult now.
Despite these reservations, and many similarities to similar stories of dissolved bands, this film was well worth watching. The Runaways had a much harder road to success than many similar bands, from the simple fact they had to earn credibility being the at the time absurd combination of female and good rock music. As such, the early film explores the rock influences on the two leads lives. Jett (Stewart) was a tomboy who loved rock, and would not be told she could not learn to play guitar unless it was in the feminine and classical arts. She was the one whom sought out producer Kim Fowley (Shannon), whom liked their sound and thought he could sell the gimmick of a girl band. All they needed was a blonde…
Currie (Fanning, at an appropriate age for the role given Currie was 15 as these events started to unfurl) came from a troublesome home, and lived her love of David Bowie despite not necessarily fitting in with her peers as a result. Jett and Fowley found her in a teenage nightclub, liked her look (and Fowley liked the jailbait angle), and gave her an audition. The rest of the film predominantly focusses on the Jett/Currie relationship, which seems the wise choice, given the creative input for the film came from these exact two sources. As such, blame is not foisted on any one party as to why the band fell apart. More realistically, all the elements were there that would cause the splintering of personalities. The world of rock in that era was all about drugs, and at that age and that amount of freedom, sex also becomes a factor. This is most prominently displayed through Currie, who lost her innocence to this world, and performed on and off stage in an overtly sexual manner.
Given how heavy this subject matter is, the next most obvious query is how successfully Stewart and Fanning performed their roles. I am delighted to say very impressively, to the point I will no longer write them off as the wooden one from Twilight and the big blue-eyed girl in I Am Sam. Rather, they both disappeared into their roles, such that I was able to enter the world created on-screen without being distracted by knowing these actors former history. Stewart I have heard has shown great talent elsewhere, so clearly she is constrained by her character in her more popular franchise, whereas Fanning is now getting comfortable in more mature roles, a process that started with some faltering in Push, but has now come full bloom.
The film does drag a little in the third act, given that Stewart and Fanning are not on the screen together for a lot of it to spark off of each other. This is a very entertaining look at the story behind the push to get females recognised as credible performers in the rock industry, and as such I highly recommend it. After all, Bride of Film Nerd and I would never have met if it had not been for a female fronted metal band!!
4 stars (out of 5)