Dave White
The Runaways Review

Dave's Rating:


Female trouble

Who's In It: Dakota Fanning, Kristen Stewart, Michael Shannon, Stella Maeve, Scout Taylor-Compton, Alia Shawkat

The Basics: Back in the 1970s, the chicks were still the groupies and the dudes were the rock stars. Short-lived cult bands like The Feminine Complex never made more than a regional impression, so The Runaways, drafted into rock star boot camp by music producer/svengali/crazy guy Kim Fowley, became the first all-female rock band to make a major impression. They toured with Van Halen and The Ramones, they became huge stars in Japan, they bridged a musical gap between glam rock, bands like The Stooges and the beginnings of '70s punk, influencing later bands like The Germs, Go-Go's and Bikini Kill. The movie The Runaways is about Dakota Fanning making out with Kristen Stewart and licking up drugs off the floor.

What's The Deal: It'd be great to say that this movie takes the conventional structure of a rock band biopic (or any episode of VH1's Behind the Music) and upends it to explore the weirdness of the '70s and the indignities of being female in the music industry, the relentless drive of Joan Jett, how you can be a superstar in another country and almost unknown in your own town, and the reasons for the constant fighting in this particular band. But it doesn't do much of that, choosing to merely nod at the more complicated, strange and exciting aspects of the band's story and spend most of its time touching on the usual stuff like broken homes, we're-getting-so-famous-now montages, the passive sexual blossoming of lead singer Cherie Currie and how cocaine is totally bad for you.

Even More Annoying: Lita Ford gets like six lines here and all of them are, "%@*# you!" and "I hate you Cherie!" which must mean that Lita Ford never did anything in this band but get upset at the other girls for... well, the reasons are unclear. But at least the character of Lita Ford gets to speak. The other girls were, according to this film, rock's first mute female band members.

Worth Seeing Anyway For: Stewart and Fanning. They look the part, they get all the notes right, they perform convincingly when it's time to sneer-sing "Cherry Bomb" and they convey the appropriate sense of Kim Fowley's (a really awesome Michael Shannon) best line, "This isn't about Women's Lib. It's about women's libido." In fact, for Joan Jett--who's always been exactly as punk rock sarcastic about the subject of her sexuality with the press as you'd expect her to be--this movie also serves as a kind of official coming out story, but one where being a lesbian is less important than being a badass.

Blink And You'll Miss: Tatum O'Neal, stealing her one scene as Fanning's unpleasantly chirpy and selfish mom. It led me to two thoughts: 1. Where's the Tatum O'Neal biopic, because that movie would have way more drugs in it.
2. How do you drag Kristy McNichol out of hiding to make Little Darlings 2012? Because I'd kind of rather see that than Sex and the City 2.


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