FILM: “The Runaways”

As with just about every rock & roll movie ever made, “The Runaways” is about sex and drugs and rock & roll. And yet it still ends up being more like a made-for-TV cautionary tale rather than a real-life rock film.

Don’t get me wrong. The movie is a fun ride. The super-saturated color and the warm California sun capture the essence of the mid-70s, as accurately as the platform shoes, hot pants and feather-shag hairdos.

And the acting is excellent. Since the film is based on Cherie Currie’s autobiography, “Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway,” Currie is naturally the center of the story, and Dakota Fanning does an excellent job in the role as the uncertain, troubled, jailbait sex-kitten-with-claws.

But Joan Jett also served as one of the film’s co-producers, and she made sure that Jett-the-character was well represented onscreen, too. Kristen Stewart nails the role with a sullen magnetism, playing the yin to Fanning’s yang. She is perfect.

Best of all, though, is Michael Shannon as the band’s svengali manager-producer Kim Fowley. Shannon captures his boundless ego and his brutal, win-at-any-cost attitude with gusto and flair. He looks good in rockstar make-up, too.

But don’t take “The Runaways” as rock & roll verite. The other members of the band – guitarist Lita Ford and drummer Sandy West – are barely mentioned, and real-life bassist Jackie Fox is completely missing-in-action, having been replaced with a fictional bassist named Robin.

“The Runaways” just kind of peters out at the end. There’s no mention of the fact the Runaways actually carried on for two more albums after Currie left the fold. Instead, according to the movie, Jett latches onto her rock & roll dream of stardom with “I Love Rock & Roll,” while Currie is stuck working a straight job in a shop.

Although the film is based on Currie’s memoirs, it ends up looking something like Joan Jett’s rebuttal to “Edgeplay: A Film About the Runaways,” the bruising 2004 documentary directed and produced by Vicki Blue (credited as Victory Tischler-Blue), one of the band’s later bassists. Jett refused to participate in the documentary and wouldn’t allow any of the Runaways’ music to be used, either.

  1. LiLi says

    I felt old when Drew Barrymore was suddenly grown up — I remember her on Carson being interviewed about “E.T.” and she took her teeth out (she was missing her 2 front teeth) and said she could talk better without them. Now, Dakota Fanning — the little girl from “Man on Fire” getting all grown up — geez, I must be getting old.

    I don’t remember The Runaways, but I remember Joan Jett. I remember vidoes of “I Love Rock N Roll” and “Crimson & Clover” but I didn’t have MTV where I lived at the time. I think there was a show where they played videos late at night. It seems like it was on just before they’d show the flag and play the national anthem then the channel would go dead for the night.

    Does anyone remember what TV show that was?

  2. Scott C. says

    What we really need is a Kim Fowley documentary, but I don’t know if the world is ready for it.

  3. Sara says

    Was is Night Flight? That was originally on the USA network but later was in syndication. I don’t know if it was shown on a non-cable channel.

  4. Sara says

    Now that’s an interesting prospect. (But a little frightening.)

  5. LiLi says

    I do remember the name Night Flight, but at that time we didn’t have cable. I remember the TV with the rabbit ears on it with big tufts of aluminum hanging off them. I also remember getting up to change the dial and that the dial had an inner and outer ring so that I could dial in more channels, but I don’t think any of them were cable. Seems like the show was only 1/2 hour long because I remember only seeing a few videos and then it went off and I always wanted more. I saw a video for The Vapors for “Turning Japanese” on there, also saw Kiss “World Without Heroes.”

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