One of the better rock bio-pics that have come around about the fast rise and fall of the manufactured all-girl rock band "The Runaways," the film benefits from vid-director Floria Sigismondi's command of the material and two stunning performances by Dakota Fanning as lead-singer Cherie Currie and Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett. The band came from an idea that had to happen—kicking in the glass ceiling of the supposedly revolutionary rock n' roll scene, which was as much an All-Boy's Club as the record management that lorded over the business.
Joan Larkin is a tough chick who wants to learn guitar, but finds herself frustrated by the traditional route. Cherie Currie is a rebellious 15 year old who doesn't fit in at school or at home: Mom (Tatum O'Neal) is absentee and Dad (Brett Cullen) has checked out of the house and reality. Joan christens herself "Joan Jett," and approaches producer Kim Fowley (a really good Michael Shannon) at a club about the idea of forming a rock-band, and says the one thing that resonates with Fowley and throughout the entire movie: "No guys."
Jett has enough guts and raw talent that Fowley builds a band around her and her concept of tough-girl rockers, but has enough showmanship to know that they need something as a topper, and he and Jett start scanning clubs looking for "the look." They find it in Cherrie Currie, who can't sing, can't dance, but is game for a rock life-style and they are coached, prepped and hardened into a unit ready to bitch-slap...literally...anything that can be thrown their way.
But the band-members find that glass ceilings in the rock-world are usually double-paned. While they're trying to break down barriers, they find they have to dodge new ones, even the ones thrown up by Fowley, and the learning curve begins to flatten out in a brutal road-trip to promote their first album. Soon, they're being fractured by drug use, and the manipulations imposed on them from all sides and the implode from the pressures.
Moral of the story: "No Guys."
The movie stands on Sigismondi's flashy direction and by tough performances by Fanning and Stewart. Fanning has always been fearless, but here she's exceptional, throwing herself at the Currie role with abandon. Stewart has probably benefitted from all the "Twilight" nonsense, as her portrayal of Jett—although lacking Jett's manner of speaking like Sylvester Stallone—throws off her stand-by mode of unfocussed girlishness and gives a performance that has a real spine to it—there's never any doubt who's the leader of the group. Backed by a superb soundtrack of well-chosen material, "The Runaways"—produced by Jett (no doubt from her own Blackheart Record Label) from Currie's memoir is a satisfying "last word" (for now) on a phenomenon that changed rock forever.
Financing your future enough to write your own herstory...that is empowerment.
"The Runaways" is a Matinee.
The Runaways in Japan, 1977
This performance is recreated in the film.