The Runaways

Release Date: March 19, 2010
Limited release

The Twilight reunion got a little weird...

On the Big Board
Position Staff In Brief
78/123 David Mumpower A great story told very, very poorly.
127/190 Max Braden Kristen Stewart got Joan Jett right (I assume) and she should have been more of the focus than Cherie.

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Being a musician isn’t easy. Like anything that requires talent, it takes countless of hours of patient repetition to become proficient. Also, like most creative pursuits the hardest part of it is often working with others. But the least understood aspect of music is that if you’d like to work with others, the hardest part isn’t getting a band together, or even getting your band a recording contract. It’s keeping a band together. Whether an act is packing stadiums worldwide or playing Wednesday nights at the local bowling alley, whenever a group of creative minds is asked to work as one, friction is inevitable - and it can consume even the closest working relationships. If a band does achieve any kind of success, money, drugs, unscrupulous associations and the trappings of fame itself can destroy a group as easily as anything. It has happened countless times, to countless bands of every stripe. But one possible worst case scenario might be a band made up of all teenage girls, practicing their craft in a world – and at a time – that is dominated by men and rife with exploitation.

The Runaways will try to chronicle the exploits of just such a group. The band of the same name existed for four short years and enjoyed the same meteoric rise and chaotic demise as thousands of others. What made this one different is that they were all teenage girls and they were all genuinely talented. But at a time when women were not taken particularly seriously as rock musicians, this band’s climb uphill was steeper than most. And being what they were – children – the circumstances that tore them apart seem all the more unfortunate in retrospect. Yet, for a few turbulent years, The Runaways made quite a splash in the growing punk rock movement, only to flame out early and disappear into oblivion. Though the act is primarily remembered only by music purists and historians, they were arguably a watershed that opened a lot of doors, particularly for themselves. Several of the group’s most prominent members went on to enjoy even greater success on their own, and many of the female pop acts of the 1980s owe at least a partial debt to this courageously self-destructive little band from Southern California.

Based on founding member Cherie Currie’s novel Neon Angels, The Runaways aims to shed light on how the act came to be, what made them briefly great and what ultimately made them go away. Though the group went through several iterations, the film focuses primarily on core members Currie (the vocalist), rhythm guitarist Joan Jett (yes, that Joan Jett), drummer Sandy West and lead guitarist Lita Ford (who still appears to have a spot in my LP collection). Like many bands, The Runaways struggled with rejection, success, drugs, shady record executives and of course, each other. Unlike most bands, they inspired a generation of their peers and survived to see their lives documented by actors on film. Speaking of actors, this movie will serve as something of a transition for Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning (who have an opportunity to repay society for a certain vampire movie), both of whom moviegoers are probably used to thinking of in an entirely different light. As Jett (Stewart) and Currie (Fanning), both youngsters will be asked to carry the film, tasked with portraying the band’s founding members and driving force.

It’s a tall order for two actresses who together aren’t old enough to remember the women they’re portraying as they were in their prime. It’s an even greater challenge for director Floria Sigismondi, who is behind the camera here for her feature film debut. Considering her background is primarily as a music video director, it would be easy – and cynical – to dismiss her appearance here as cliché. To some, a rock and roll biopic might seem to be an uninspired shortcut for someone who’s used to working with individuals like Marilyn Manson. But there aren’t many kinds of people in this world more fascinating and complex than musicians. And if you’re going to tell the story of a mercurial gang of shock-rockers, it might be of benefit to have worked with one. The Runaways bowed at Sundance in 2009, and having read a number of impressions from that time, I already know what others are saying. But critics are a jaded bunch, so the reactions are as predictably unpredictable as you can get. The Runaways is either going to be a meandering dud like The Doors, or a crowd pleasing hit like La Bamba. My suggestion is to watch the trailers and use your instincts.

It isn’t easy making music, and it certainly isn’t any easier making films. Musical biopics combine both; they’re as risky a project as there is, as often embarrassing as they are uplifting. But The Runaways has a chance to appeal to both those young enough to love the cast, and those old enough to appreciate the characters they’re playing – and the music that helped make them famous. In the end the only one it has to please is you, and the opinion that matters is yours - and maybe Alexander Hamilton’s – mainly, whether or not you’re willing to part with one of him the day The Runaways finally opens. (Bruce Hall/BOP)

Vital statistics for The Runaways
Main Cast Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning
Supporting Cast Michael Shannon, Danielle Riley Keough, Scout Taylor-Compton, Stella Maeve, Tatum O'Neal
Director Floria Sigismondi
Screenwriter Floria Sigismondi
Distributor Apparition
Rating R
Running Time 105 minutes
Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture



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