FILM: “The Runaways”
As with just about every rock & roll movie ever made, “The Runaways” is about sex and drugs and rock & roll. And yet it still ends up being more like a made-for-TV cautionary tale rather than a real-life rock film.
Don’t get me wrong. The movie is a fun ride. The super-saturated color and the warm California sun capture the essence of the mid-70s, as accurately as the platform shoes, hot pants and feather-shag hairdos.
And the acting is excellent. Since the film is based on Cherie Currie’s autobiography, “Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway,” Currie is naturally the center of the story, and Dakota Fanning does an excellent job in the role as the uncertain, troubled, jailbait sex-kitten-with-claws.
But Joan Jett also served as one of the film’s co-producers, and she made sure that Jett-the-character was well represented onscreen, too. Kristen Stewart nails the role with a sullen magnetism, playing the yin to Fanning’s yang. She is perfect.
Best of all, though, is Michael Shannon as the band’s svengali manager-producer Kim Fowley. Shannon captures his boundless ego and his brutal, win-at-any-cost attitude with gusto and flair. He looks good in rockstar make-up, too.
But don’t take “The Runaways” as rock & roll verite. The other members of the band – guitarist Lita Ford and drummer Sandy West – are barely mentioned, and real-life bassist Jackie Fox is completely missing-in-action, having been replaced with a fictional bassist named Robin.
“The Runaways” just kind of peters out at the end. There’s no mention of the fact the Runaways actually carried on for two more albums after Currie left the fold. Instead, according to the movie, Jett latches onto her rock & roll dream of stardom with “I Love Rock & Roll,” while Currie is stuck working a straight job in a shop.
Although the film is based on Currie’s memoirs, it ends up looking something like Joan Jett’s rebuttal to “Edgeplay: A Film About the Runaways,” the bruising 2004 documentary directed and produced by Vicki Blue (credited as Victory Tischler-Blue), one of the band’s later bassists. Jett refused to participate in the documentary and wouldn’t allow any of the Runaways’ music to be used, either.