Hey, did you know rock bands do drugs, get in fights and have sex in crazy places all while the band gets crazy jealous of the fame the lead singer is achieving? Okay, maybe not all rock bands do those things, but you can bet your ass if they want to get a movie made about them they better have done those things, or at least say they’ve done those things. Guess what, that’s exactly what you get with The Runaways, a film that feels like a stepping stone into puberty for Dakota Fanning (quite literally in fact) and a chance for Kristen Stewart to brood on screen with a character that calls for the actress’s expected dead-eyed acting chops.
The Runaways tells the story of the formation and subsequent downfall of the titular all-girl rock band with an emphasis on relationship between lead singer Cherie Currie (Fanning) and Joan Jett (Stewart). Currie comes with family trouble, Jett comes without a family. Jett wants to form a band, Currie just wants to do anything other that what she’s doing now.
When Jett meets the eccentric producer Kim Fowley, played by the lively Michael Shannon in the one performance that truly stands out in the film, he sees talent and in the search for a lead singer they find 15-year-old Currie in a nightclub and the band is formed. “Jailbait!” he exclaims and continues his exuberance as they practice in a trailer in the woods (seriously). Give me anger, give me sex! Fowley growls as the band practices and the Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-Cherry Bomb is born and the rest of the film stutters right along with it.
It’s unfortunate the rest of the film can’t live up to what is a rather interesting start as it slowly devolves into every rock story ever told on film. I’m not saying none of this happened, and perhaps it happened as exactly portrayed in this film, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessary a movie be made about it.
Music video director Floria Sigismondi does just fine, working with a script she wrote and she gets just about as much as she can from everyone involved, but when the material asks for little more than angry teens trying to act like grown-ups it’s not exactly as if we are walking into new territory. I would have also loved to ask her what need is fulfilled when she starts the film with a focused drop of menstrual blood seeping into the concrete.
As I said in the opening, this film serves as Dakota Fanning’s literal leap into puberty, but do we need physical evidence of it in the first frame? Had Sigismondi been more interested in exploring this aspect of the story in a similar artful fashion then perhaps some significance could be found here. Instead it comes off as the first slit of the wrist as this film dies a slow suicide into boredom.
Nothing is gained by watching The Runaways, but perhaps some good can come out of it. Dakota Fanning was practically raised on the big screen and this is a chance for her to begin her steps into the second stage of her acting career. Outside of Michael Shannon stealing every frame of the film he occupies you get the feeling this, while an acting misstep, is Fanning’s coming out party after the unfortunate Push as she hopefully moves on to bigger and better things and finds similar success to what she found as a youngster.