“The Runaways”, directed by Floria Sigismondi and starring Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning, Stella Maeve, Scout Taylor-Compton, Alia Shawkat and Michael Shannon, is the story of the 1970’s all-girl rock band that broke the rock and roll mold. There were no girl rock and roll bands at the time, and thanks to Joan Jett, The Runaways were born leading the way for future all-girl bands.
Jett, played by Kristen Stewart, bravely and casually approaches record producer Kim Fowley (Shannon) outside of a night club and states with conviction “I want to start an all girl rock band.” That’s all it took for the idea of The Runaways to be born.
From there, Jett, West (Maeve) and Fowley seek out the rest of the band, which includes Lita Ford (Taylor-Compton) and Cherie Currie (Fanning). Jackie Fox is not represented in the film, but instead is replaced with a composite bassist, Robin (Shawkat). The film focuses on the birth and life of The Runaways, Currie’s rise and fall as the lead singer, and her relationship with Jett.
Stewart, a doppelganger for Joan Jett, perfectly portrayed all of her mannerisms – even the slight back hunch that Jett carries. Though Stewart was born after The Runaways disbanded, she plays Jett as though she’s known her for her entire life. Her attitude toward music and life are as realistic as Jett’s– defiant and strong. Stewart is at her best when she is showing vibrant emotions – hatred, frustration and when she jams on the guitar. Stewart worked regularly with Jett to ensure she had the story and emotions down, and it’s reflected in Stewart’s performance.
Dakota Fanning is a standout in this film. At 15, both Fanning and Currie were far beyond their years in life experience and maturity. We watch Currie, who exudes 1970’s glam, turn into a raspy, sexy, hardcore rocker who deals with more than she can handle, namely sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. Fanning is outstanding as Currie. She, too, resembles Currie quite a bit. But beyond that, Fanning, at only 15 years of age during filming, handles the role with the maturity of someone who’s already lived through all of it. The edge she brings to the role is award worthy. Perhaps Fanning should have grown up in that decade…. She seamlessly fits in.
Shannon, who didn’t receive much press for his role as Kim Fowley, is brilliant as the punk-rock, “I don’t care about anyone but myself and the music” record producer who shows the young girls no mercy when it comes to making good music. He yells, screams, berates, and messes with their heads to get them into shape just as a drill sergeant would do with his army privates. His makeup is outstanding and adds to the madness that Fowley represents in the film. His antics are startling (urging people to throw dog feces at the band during their rehearsal). At no point does he show the girls any mercy, but it makes them stronger and brings them together as the first internationally known all-girl rock band. Jett has stated in previous interviews that this role was exaggerated and there was a definite camaraderie between Fowley and the group.
These three actors; Stewart, Fanning and Fowley, bring the story of The Runaways to life on film. You’re in the moment with them; you want them to kick butt, prove themselves and make it big. Though their heyday came and went and they did make it big, particularly in Japan, the group eventually disbanded. Today, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts still tours and their number one single, “I Love Rock and Roll”, rejected by 23 music producers, is still played in bars around the world.
7 out of 10 sandwiches
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