Movie Review: 'The Runaways'

Movie Review: 'The Runaways'

Summary: Based on the true story of the 1970s all-girl rock band, The Runaways.

Published March 19, 2010

runawaysSummary : Based on the true story of the 1970s all-girl rock band, The Runaways. A typical rock biopic padded with sex, drugs, music, fame and downfalls.

Review : It's hard to tell if “The Runways” is a lackluster rock flick because the all-girl band was more of a gimmick than credible rock 'n roll, or if the film lacked the grit and depth necessary for a solid biopic. You know the story before walking into the theater: everyday kids have dreams of massive fame, luck is on their side, they meet the right person and soon they are international stars. There is always one bad apple in the group with drug addiction and guilt for being famous, tempers flare, the group disbands, but one person has solo success. “The Runaways” is a little “What's Love Got To Do With It?” with a dash of “Sid and Nancy” and a splash of “Dreamgirls” (substitute the wigs for lesbian kisses!).

The best way to describe the sketchiness of “The Runaways” is similar to “American Idol” judges saying a performance is "pitchy." It's off-key for the majority of the time.  But, when it periodically hits the right notes, it's an enjoyable film.

“The Runways” has the aesthetic of an excellent music video (even though I sometimes felt like I was watching long commercials for Rock Band ), which makes sense since the director, Floria Sigismondi , was behind music videos for Christina Aguilera , Marilyn Manson and David Bowie . But, the story stumbles along like a made for VH1 rock biopic. Conflicts are poorly developed and scenarios are inexcusably cliché. Usually every music biopic has a touch of original thought; “The Runaways” has none.

There is one strong force in the film, which is Joan Jett , and the story might've been stronger if this was a movie solely about her, and The Runaways secondary. Kristen Stewart plays Joan Jett, and she surprisingly transcends the teen melodrama of “Twilight” and manages to push out a strong, risky performance. Joan Jett is an executive producer, so I doubt she would allow Bella to ruin her on screen; you can tell Stewart studied Jett and had a goal to make her proud. Any Joan Jett fan would give two thumbs up to Stewart.

On the other hand, there is no "wow moment" in any of Stewart's scenes. She has a mild breakdown in a recording studio, but Stewart needed a strong monologue or at least something to show growth in the role. The character of Jett is the same person in the first frame as she was in the last frame. However, she is likable. Who doesn't dig a ballsy chick that does it as good as the boys?

Dakota Fanning plays Cherie Currie, the Diana Ross of the group in terms of popularity; but unlike Ross, her career crumbles due to drugs. Fanning is an incredible actress, but Currie's addictions felt too lofty for a teen dream like Fanning. For the first time in her career, Dakota struggled to make a connection with what could've been a complex character regardless of how generic Currie's story is. This could be the fault of the director, the script, or perhaps of Fanning not doing the research, which she would clearly need to do -- Fanning is squeaky clean Hollywood royalty. Drew Barrymor e would've nailed this role at Dakota's age!

On a side note, one other big star came out of The Runaways: ‘80s rock goddess, Lita Ford . Her character is botched down to a few lines. Ford told Rolling Stone that Jett's manager offered to buy the rights of her story for $1,000. "I thought that was pretty disgusting — we never even replied," Ford said. This is disturbing to hear. It would be similar to doing a biopic on Destiny's Child and cutting Kelly Rowland 's story to a few sentences.

“The Runaways” isn't a rotten movie, but it could've been so much better.  If it was the first music biopic ever made, it would be brilliant; but since it's a story that’s obviously been recycled a billion times over, the film falls flat. That said, it's hard to hate a movie about one of the first all-girl punk rock groups of all time.

“The Runaways” opens in limited theaters today.

Written by Clay Cane

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