Floria Sigismondi’s new film on the rise and fall of the American all-girl teenage 70s rock band The Runaways is an MTV filmic music video meets cool (definition: teenager cool) indie flick. The year is 1975; Joan Larkin (soon to be Jett) is a brooding wanderer with a dream to form an all-girl rock band. Cherie Currie, the beautiful doe-eyed Cherie Currie is stumbling through puberty like an F. Scott Fitzgerald female protagonist with a loaded gun. And Sandy West, Lita Ford and Jackie Fox, well in truth none of them are defined by more than a single characteristic and as for a back story, what back story? Which is not to say that this necessarily a flaw.
For by the looks of things the other three girls in reality were left to squint for a ray of light in the shadows of their two burgeoning iconic band mates. This of course, like it always does produces a stream of tart tasting resentment on tap which makes for a few dramatically searing scenes that made it into the film. Yay! You can almost hear their peels of squeals they finally got their moment, even if they didn’t get to play it themselves.
So you know the drill – the girls meet, they begin to jam, albeit not very good, there’s an audible struggle and then of course everything just falls into place. Stardom comes knocking on their door and embraces them with a big drunken bear hug. But like a lady in the night, the rockers soon begin to unravel as their troubled self-destructive lead singer Cherie Currie falls hard into sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. The film shows how the young Currie was put on a very narrow pedestal and eventually she fell off, taking her band mates with her as she squatted into a pear shape.
Dakota Fanning as Cherie Currie delivers a strong performance, a lesser actress may of played to heavily for maudlin-induced pathos, however Fanning with her years of acting experience tucked neatly in her knapsack appears natural and authentic. Whereas Kirsten Stewart at times seems almost chocked by the material. Her awkward, hair fiddling, stoned drone that she courts around to all her Twilight premieres and press junkets maybe cool and effortlessly rock ‘n’ roll for that arena, because let’s face it who really is looking at her when she has Robert Patterson and Taylor Lautner accessorizing her rumpled outfits. But that exterior performance doesn’t cut it when you’re out on your own with a film that requires your talent, for to be frank there are far fewer people interested in The Runaways than there is Twilight. This may e unfortunate but no less true.
Cluttered with lots of wholesale extraneous stylistic shots and set-ups, the film at times seems to strain a little too hard to be something it really needn’t be. The story was there, you could see it trying to bloom in its unneutered soil. Making its dramatic tone at times feel bloated yet diluted. Never quite capturing the sensation and essence of these characters and their story. However, the music, of which admittedly it showcases well-pop chart toppers like the rebellion towards the parental establishment hit Cherry Bomb and the pulp concentrated track Hollywood, is interweaved into the narrative with shake your head bountifulness that makes up for most of the plot malfunctions.
Though the film does doggy paddle in shallow waters, it does at times touch upon issues beyond that of rebellious teenage rockers that were given a stage and music instrument to splatter their angst on to their fans faces like a Jackson Pollack painting. The Runaways takes place at a pivotal time in history. It was a time in which women were beginning to assert their sexuality, liberating themselves from patriarchal shackles like a raging tour de force. Though it is by no means a feminist piece of cinema, it does have a somewhat serious sensibility that runs through the film like a single grey hair.
Fortunately, it must be said, despite the films inability to be anything more than a standard Hollywood biopic affair, the snappy irreverent nature of the film acts as a handheld joyride of a movie. Not one that you necessarily want to ever visit again in your time but one that you remember as being ok at the time.