The Runaways

2010-07-09 12:36
The Runaways

What it's about:

The chaotic relationship between two young and restless teen rebels, Joan Jett and Cherie Currie, who find their rock ‘n roll cause when they form an all-girl group under the guidance of a Machiavellian manager.

What we thought:

Translating legendary rock n’ roll tales onto the big screen is seldom a slam dunk. As entertaining as they were, even critically acclaimed biopics such as Oliver Stone’s The Doors and Jim McBride’s Great Balls of Fire ended up being hamstrung by myth-making. You know Jim Morrison the mystic-misfit-prophet-messiah? Or Jerry Lee Lewis: the original sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll fuelled wild man? Cool cinematic clichés, but no real sense of the actual men behind the music.

The Runaways is no exception. For starters - and contrary to the media-marketing spin surrounding the movie - the all-girl rock group fronted by troubled teenage runaways Joan Jett and Cherie Currie in the mid-to-late 70s were never actually legends. They may have been momentarily big in Japan, but the band barely sold any albums. Their debut The Runaways (1976) peaked at #194 on the Billboard charts. It’s follow-up Queens of Noise (1977) stuttered all the way to #172. By April 1979 The Runaways were a footnote in the History of Rock.

So, what’s all the fuss about? Why make a flick about the rise and fall of a forgotten girl group? Simple: watching a rock ‘n roll pajama party makes for voyeuristically entertaining viewing. Especially if the oversexed teens that kick out the rock jams in their underwear, while taking loads of drugs and getting their lesbian love on happen to be vampirically sexy Kristen 'Twilight' Stewart and doe-eyed blonde Dakota Fanning.

Relax. Despite it’s stereotypical subject matter, The Runaways isn’t actually a B-grade (s)exploitation flick. Having honed her skills at the helm of music videos for everyone from Marilyn Manson and David Bowie to Björk and Christina Aguilera, writer-director Floria Sigismondi knows how to walk the line between style and substance.

Sure we get to see the shaggy-haired, satin-suited, guitar-brandishing nymphets engaged in all kinds of debauchery and erotically compromised positions. Nowhere more so than in the film’s focal scene, where sleazy manager Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon) psychologically terrorises Cherie into sexing up their jailbait anthem "Cherry Bomb" over and over again after she hoped to perform Peggy Lee’s lounge ballad "Fever".

But we also get to know the lead characters through several of those awkward biographical scenes we all love watching. There’s a rebellious Joan kicking against the sexist guitar teaching pricks by belting out a crude electric cover of "On Top of Old Smoky". There’s Cherie lip-synching to David Bowie at a high school talent contest despite getting teased. And there are even more personal "Kodak moments": Joan bending her gender by buying a guy’s biker jacket; a virginal Cherie having her first period on Hollywood Boulevard, and yes, that much-hyped sexual liaison between Stewart and Fanning that burns with an understated erotic affection, rather than any 'barely legal' titillation.

It’s these intimate asides that make The Runaways worth watching. Until the last 30 minutes that is, which trots out a conveyor belt of climactic chestnuts including alcohol and drug addiction, personality clashes on tour and all those usual “this is what breaks up a band” clichés.
A sexy, yet surprisingly sensitive coming-of-age biopic about the rise and fall of forgotten rock ‘n roll girl group The Runaways.

IceCreamMan 2010/07/09 10:36 AM
Lita Ford is HAWT !!!
preshen govender 2010/07/09 4:35 PM
  • Rating:
sex,drugs and rock n roll ,what more can you ask for
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