Monday, April 12, 2010

The Runaways (2010 movie)

I am always wildly skeptical about r’n’r biographical movies, as they usually fall well short of capturing the excitement and energy of their subjects. While this one may be a little above average, it still does not really hit the mark.

Visually, the flick is pretty amazing. Of course, a lot of suburban Los Angeles has not changed much, but the staging and outfits are pretty incredible. Kristen Stewart’s portrayal of Joan Jett is nothing less than remarkable – she has Jett down cold – to the point of almost forgetting that it is not Jett who you are watching. She is, by far, the highlight of the film.

Dakota Fanning’s take on Cherie Currie is good, though nowhere near the level of Stewart, but granted, Jett is a more memorable character to start with. Scout Taylor-Compton is a rockin’ Lita Ford and Stella Maeve does a respectable Sandy West but since bassist Jackie Fox refused to allow her name or likeness to be used in the movie (apparently there are pending lawsuits over several issues), a completely forgettable and generic girl was put in her place. I find this particularly interesting as Fox was the cutest one of the bunch at the start and her movie replacement does not come close. This also means that her quitting the band during (or just after) the Japanese tour is not included and so that shakeup, which eventually led to Cherie leaving, as well, is not explored.

The concert footage is spot-on, with amazing replicas of the girl’s outfits and stage mannerisms, though I rather doubt that they received rave reactions from their first (pre-record) shows on the road. And, of course, the soundtrack uses studio recordings rather than even faux-live sounds.

Michael Shannon does a pretty terrific job of capturing the sleazy Kim Fowley, who managed the band, got them their record deal, co-wrote the songs and produced their records. Kim was responsible for the band starting and most likely responsible for their break-up, as well.

I was never under the impression that Jett & Currie were even particularly close, much less lovers, during the Runaways career, though obviously, I wouldn’t know for sure! But, everything I had heard indicated that Jett would rather had fronted the band herself and somewhat resented Fowley bringing in Currie. It does create a major plot line for the film, so maybe this needed to be added.

Overall, this is a fun romp, though something is missing and I haven’t been able to put my finger on it. I did not come out of the theater feeling excited for rock’n’roll, as some of the best flicks can (even Pirate Radio did this for me). Still, it is good and well worth seeing and I hope that this inspires a new generation of rock’n’roll females.

(PS – another thing I found odd is that at the end of the film, where it gives a “where are they now” segment, it says nothing about Lita or Sandy’s post-Runaways careers, or even mentions West’s relatively recent passing. I know that Joan and Cherie are the focuses of the movie, but especially considering Ford’s port-Runaways popularity, it seemed unusual.)