The Runaways
You really think Edward’s the one? Jacob looks great without a shirt …

Theatrical Release Date: 04/09/2010
Director: Floria Sigismondi
Cast: Dakota Fanning, Kristen Stewart, Michael Shannon, Stella Maeve, Scout Taylor-Compton, Alia Shawkat, Riley Keough, Tatum O’Neal
Rated: R for language, drug use and sexual content – all involving teens.
Runtime: 1 hour, 46 minutes

Golden Mug2010 Golden Mug

Best Supporting Actor (Michael Shannon)


And I’m singing! I’m in a store and I’m singing!

In the mid ’70s, an all girl rock band burst onto the scene and challenged the notion that Rock ‘n Roll could only be made by men – The Runaways. Now, because all stories end up on the silver screen, the feature film has arrived and is appropriately titled … “The Runaways” … huh, that seemed more dramatic in my mind.

It’s also a bit misleading to say this is about the band, as the biggest problem with the film is how director Floria Sigismondi focuses the story. Taking its inspiration from lead singer Cherie Currie’s autobiography “Neon Angel”, the picture is squarely about Currie and her dynamic with guitarist Joan Jett (though Currie is the only one examined to greater detail). It would have been far more accurate to title the project “Cherry Bomb” and not give the pretense that this was about the band as a whole.

To that end, there’s essentially no development or information given about the drummer (Sandy West) or the bassist (Robin in the film but in real life this role was a revolving door of artists) or guitarist Lita Ford, who would go on to a successful music career on her own, and gets only a handful of lines with no post film epilogue text like Currie or Jett. There’s even a note about how Currie went on to make another record with her sister Marie … only we’re never given any hint that Marie was musically inclined (or that in real life, Cherie and Marie were twins).

As for the acting, it’s a bit better than I had expected going in. There is an adjustment period in the beginning, where both Dakota Fanning (playing Cherie) and Kristen Stewart (Joan Jett) felt awkward and forced, almost comical. However, once we settle into their characters, Fanning is able to be rebellious, naive and vulnerable. Stewart surprised me the most, and while it may have been helped by editing and direction, she doesn’t bite/lick her lips or tuck her hair back behind her ears once! (The haircut helped there I’m sure.) Still, for those of you who need it, click here for a compilation of Stewart and some of her mannerisms.

I will admit that their singing was decent and far better than I had expected. Sure, you can hear the difference between Stewart and Jett (especially when the real version of “I Love Rock n’ Roll” gets played) but overall, the music sounded good – though as someone who didn’t grow up listening to the band, super fans may well disagree and curse the world.

There’s some irony in Tatum O’Neal playing Currie’s mother, seeing as their real life problems dealing with fame at such a young age are like near mirror images. Who knows if that was a factor in the casting process but my cynical mind runs wild sometimes.

Perhaps the biggest shock comes from a performance in the film so good it could be on the short list for Best Supporting Actor come the end of the year – that of Michael Shannon as producer Kim Fowley. Fowley is an outspoken, lewd, crude and loud personality, to put it mildly (with the wardrobe and make-up to match). Shannon fully embraces the over the top nature and eccentricities of the role, absolutely crushing whoever else is on-screen with him.

Also on the plus side for the film is the production design, from the period set design and props to the costumes, make-up and wigs. All of it helps to set the right mood and tone to the piece, it’s just a shame the film really isn’t about the band as a whole. A 3 out of 5, “The Runaways” isn’t going to land in the hall of biopic champions but it turned out better than expected considering the primal nature of the subject material and the actors chosen to live up to it.

3 out of 5