Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Saw The Runaways last night.
Good movie, not great. The script, by Floria Sigismondi, was pretty much a by-the-numbers rock biopic, or, hell, rock movie, in general. The direction, also by Sigismondi, is stylish and evocative of the era. The film has a "raw" quality that made me think of 70's Grindhouse pictures. Performances, anchored by Kristin Stewart as Joan Jett, Dakota Fanning as Cherie Currie, and Michael Shannon in a balls-out run as flamboyant producer Kim Fowley, are all pretty good.
I went into this film knowing something about The Runaways. I knew their music a bit, which runs the gamut from Great straight-ahead rock 'n roll to pretty awful stuff, and I'd seen a really nice little documentary about the band called Edgeplay. In all honesty, if you really want to know about the band, I'd recommend the documentary. It's directed by Victory Tischler-Blue, who was actually one of the bass players for the band (the film combines them into a single character played by Alia Shawkat), and includes all of the members except Joan Jett.
The film itself is a little unhinged by Jett's ultimate fame. It's based on Currie's autobiography Neon Angel, and her decent into drugs and sex as a 15-year-old jailbait sex symbol is certainly the most dramatic element of The Runaways' story. However, you sit there, the whole time knowing that Joan Jett is going to become JOAN JETT, and that unmistakable "I Love Rock and Roll" riff would sound out. Stewart does fulfill that "star about explode" element. I like her work, in general, stupid teenybopper vampire movies be damned.
Fanning works the soiled lamb bit pretty well, and perfectly captures the element that Cherie also had, in that she's dead sexy, womanly, and you feel dirty because she's 15 years old. Her singing voice isn't quite as low as Currie's, and feels very untrained. The fact is, Cherie Currie was not anyone's idea of a great singer, so Fanning's work seems right.
Shannon just goes all the way as Fowley, who, based on this film and what's said in Edgeplay, was probably insane, and certainly out to milk every dollar out of these girls. (I should say "is," as the man apparently still wanders the Sunset Strip.) The performance is pretty brave, but it also feels a little affected. Just a tad beyond real, of course, it jibes with the stories in the documentary, so maybe Fowley just like to present himself as beyond real.
There is a lot of interesting stuff going on in the movie, but it's a case where I think maybe a there's a bit too much compression of the story. Things happen so fast, I know they actually did, with Fowley pushing his contacts to take the girls as far and as fast as he could, but it seems so rapid. I'd have like some time to see the characters develop. There's incredibly interesting stuff about Jett being the one who just wanted, passionately, to be in a rock and roll band, while Curie just kinda stumbled into it, that points to how their stories eventually play out. Or, with Cherie's twin sister, Marie, starting to dress and bleach her hair like her sister, even signing autographs. This is stuff that comes and goes without enough depth.
Bottom line, it's an entertaining movie, and I wasn't bored. I like the music, it's well acted, stylishly shot, but pretty formulaic. Three stars out of five, I'd say. Nothing to run out to, but worth seeing.