Film Review: The Runaways

One of the aims of this film surely is to encourage viewers to revisit the music of Joan Jett and The Runaways. The film will no doubt be successful on this count; it will be difficult to find one audience member who leaves without the iconic track ‘Cherry Bomb’ playing in their head.

Aspiring rock guitarist Joan Jett wishes to form an all-girl rock band in the 1970s. With the guidance of producer Kim Fowley, The Runaways go on to have great success, but it isn’t plain sailing for the group, particularly singer Cherie Currie…

This biopic was based on the memoirs of Currie, and with Jett as producer it is clear events are grounded in some truth. Notwithstanding, the filmmakers failed to get the consent of all the band members, which explains the elements of fiction. Although it is titled The Runaways, the film is very much the story of Jett and Currie.

The Runaways is very much a coming-of-age picture; depicting the girls growing up in their teen years whilst having their musical success. Thus, there is the sexual and drug experimentations, as well as the more mundane parental problems. The film reveals a notable shift in celebrity from the 1970s to the present day. Whilst the band could get away with a certain amount of bad behaviour behind closed doors, teen stars today do not appear to have quite the same luxury.

Although the film depicts the major events in The Runaways’ career, it does not give a clear sense of time. It shows the band getting signed and their success (particularly in Japan), but condenses later events. For those not schooled in the history of the band, this may be a little misleading.

The Runaways is an entertaining film overall, however on occasion points seem laboured. The lingering shots of Dakota Fanning in stockings and suspenders do not sit easy considering the actress’ young age. Although her costume is authentic of Currie, the protracted gaze is unnecessary. Furthermore, the film continually drives home how difficult it was to be a female musician at the time. Whilst this point is not disputed, the overemphasis is not really necessary; the same message could have been delivered with a degree more subtlety.

Dakota Fanning is excellent as Cherie Currie, proving she is one of the best young actresses around. Kristen Stewart successfully captures the attitude of Joan Jett, whilst Michael Shannon brings the humour as the larger-than-life Fowley. The re-recordings of songs by the cast are competent, but sound a little too polished compared to the originals.

The Runaways is an enjoyable trip to rock’n’roll history. The film is pretty much guaranteed to reignite interest in the band’s music, as well as gain a new generation of fans.

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