Most period, historical films involve tight, constricting corsets and long taffeta skirts, along with the reserved young woman, who merely gasps when the hero is tragically wounded. If this is what you love about film, buy a ticket to 2010’s ‘Clash of the Titans.’ However, if you want a biographical film that has more edge and raw energy, catch Floria Sigismondi’s ‘The Runaways.’ From the first drop of blood on the pavement to the last chorus sung, ‘The Runaways’ is an empowering, distinctive film that is anything but soft and fluffy.
In the 1970’s, rock n’ roll was a man’s world. Enter Joan Jett (Kristen Stewart) and Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning); two teenage girls who have the aspiration to start an all girl rock band. Under the manic and tyrannical guidance of Bowie-wannabe, manager, Kim Fowley (an impressive Michael Shannon), the two are submerged into a world of sex, drugs and rollicking rock n’ roll. Along with Lita Ford and Sandy West, the ladies form the short-lived group, ‘The Runaways,’ determined to rip the man’s image from rock. With the raw, pure talent of Joan, and the sex appeal of Cherie, the band quickly rises to power and spirals out of control, plummeting over the course of two years.
Shot as a grainy, classic music video, ‘The Runaways’ focuses on the music and the guitar rifts more than the actual development of the characters. Although Joan, Cherie and Fowley are distinct and unforgettable, guitarist Lita Ford and drummer Sandy West are left on the editing room floor. Rightly so, however, considering their lack of interest as opposed to Jett and Currie. Kristen’s portrayal of Jett is remarkable. A reserved young woman in interviews, Stewart’s swagger, street smarts and sultry, powerful energy transform her into the rock icon that is Joan Jett. The actual Jett said once that she mistook Kristen’s cover of her song, ‘Playing with Fire’ as her own. She nearly outshines Dakota Fanning’s innocent Cherie Currie, who the film is supposed to center on. However, Michael Shannon as the manic Kim, proves to be the most entertaining of the three.
A series of sharp cut scenes, the direction in ‘The Runaways’ is unique and certainly not conventional. As a former music video director, Floria Sigismondi’s style resonates into the motion picture. From the extreme close-ups, to the slow-framed emphasis on the utter ecstasy of rock, sex and drugs, the colorful, sometimes hysterically shot film does not fail to infatuate and convey the hectic lives of these women.
If you are a fan of The Runaways (the band), I doubt you’ll be disappointed by this comical, yet dark depiction of what really happened in 1975. If you are not a fan, I don’t doubt you’ll be humming the hit single ‘Cherry Bomb’ by the end credits.
4.5 out of 5