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runaways
Click for poster

the runaways

Starring Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning and Michael Shannon
Based on the book "Neon Angel: The Cherie Currie Story" by Cherie Currie
Screenplay and Directed by Floria Sigismondi

IN SHORT: nnn. [Rated R for language, drug use and sexual content. 102 minutes]

As we have written when appropriate, our first career was in the rock and roll radio business. It started in college (which usually doesn't count) and continued professionally in network and syndication work. Strangely enough we distinctly remember our local publicist walking in to the station with the very first Runaways album and can give you an exact quote as to  his pitch. We won't because this is a family friendly site and pitching an album made by sixteen year old girls to a seventeen year old college DJ . . . well, you imagine what one guy said to another.

Into the 1970s the only hard rockin' female that we could think of may  have been Suzi Quattro whose' album came out somewhere around the same time as the debut of the hard-rockin jailbait band The Runaways,

lead singer Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning) and guitarist and songwriter Joan Jett (Kristen ); fictionalized composite bassist  Robin Robbins (Alia Shawkat) [in reality Jett, who controls the Runaways trademark with her partner Kenny Laguna, and original band bassist Jackie Fox are bitter legal enemies over said mark.

a role shared by founder Micki Steele and later Peggy Foster, Jackie Fox, [jett] Vicki Blue and Laurie McAllister]

Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon) virtually invisible guitarist Lita Ford (Scout Taylor-Compton) drummer Sandy West (Stella Maeve) Cheri's twin Marie Currie (Riley Keough) and Marie Harmon (Tatum O'Neal) as the Currie twins' mom, who flies off to Indonesia sans daughters early in the film and Brett Cullen as their alcoholic dad

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Runaways, he would have paid . . .

$x

kicker Rodney Bingenheimer club  Pup 'n' Fries

The focus is on three dynamic personalities: wild child Cherie Currie (Fanning), the lead singer; androgynous ringleader Joan Jett on electric guitar; and the band's Svengali, Kim Fowley (Shannon), a record impresario whose attire reads neither male nor female.

This focus makes sense creatively but also legally as the producers never secured life story rights for other band members. The film is loosely based on Currie's 1989 memoir, "Neon Angel: The Cherie Currie Story." That book, however, delves more into Currie's drug addiction, one-film movie career and downward spiral than it does the Runaways. Jett, by the way, is the film's executive producer.

As the movie tells it, the Runaways are an accidental band. Joan approaches Kim outside a rock club one night and mentions her idea of forming an all-girl band. A light bulb goes off in his ever-scheming head, so he introduces her to drummer Sandy West (Stelle Maeve). Trolling another bar later, looking for a lead singer, he spots the underage Cherie and is immediately taken with her post-Marilyn Monroe/Brigitte Bardot look.

After few weeks of rehearsal in a San Fernando Valley trailer -- Kim has to write the group's first single "Cherry Bomb" on the spot for Cherie's audition -- the group, already snorting and drinking all sorts of intoxicants, hits the road. Somewhere around Cleveland, a record deal is signed. The Runaways are a hit and, next thing you know, are getting high on sake and coke in Tokyo.

Only Cherie gets her San Fernando Valley background sketched in, though sketched is the word, with Dad a drunk, Mom (former child actress herself Tatum O'Neal) remarried and living in Indonesia and a loving though iffy relationship with a sister (Riley Keough). Mostly, the film plays out a battle of wills between Joan and Kim to control the band and especially its loose cannon, Cherie.

For she is the key, because Cherie is the angel-from-hell face of the band. Kim exploits her and her teen sexuality to the fullest, even setting up a lurid photo shoot of her for a Japanese magazine without telling the other band members.

Stewart in short-cropped dark hair and dark clothes is the movie's driving force as Joan Jett. The movie never appreciates Jett's musical passion and savvy, but it does capture her burning ambition.

Fanning gets to play the film's most flamboyant character with her fishnet stockings and skin-tight corsets, but the trap here is that, for all its truth, it's repetitive and cliched. Still, the young actress makes you feel the confusions beneath an overconfident facade.

Shannon seals the character-actor stardom he launched with his Oscar-nominated performance in "Revolutionary Road" as the flamboyant music promoter/producer/manager who challenges the girls to discover their "balls." There is never a quiet moment in a life focused on supplying immediate gratification to audiences -- and to himself.

drummer Sandy West died from lung cancer in 2006. Cherie Currie is now an artist, sculpting with a chainsaw (!) though she is under solo contract with Jett's Blackheart Records. Joan Jett is still on the road (and probably wil be until the day she dies). Lita Ford is married with two kids. She last released an album at the end of 2009

amazon com link Click to buy films by Floria Sigismondi
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The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.