Film Review: “The Runaways” (2010)

Film: The Runaways
Starring: Dakota Fanning & Kristen Stewart
Studio: Apparition Studios
Genre: Rock Documentary
Rating: 3.75/5

Even though I have long enjoyed the music of Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, I was never really up on the band that she originally hailed from – The Runaways. With this in mind I was very interested in seeing what the film about the band would be like when it came out in the cinemas in 2010. “The Runaways” is based on the memoir by singer Cheri Currie entitled “Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway” and as we find in all books of this kind is taken from one person’s perspective on the full history. The film stars Dakota Fanning as Currie and Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett and each of them are standout performers as these two musicians. In some sense I feel that Stewart even kicked it up a notch just a little more.

I never got to see the film in the theatres but thanks to the magic of Netflix streaming through my PS3 I was able to check it out and give you a little bit of an opinion on it. I will do my best not to ruin the overall story of the band, but in all honesty their full history can be researched online via the likes of Wikipedia. The film shows us how the two key members of the band came to meet and how the band was formed in order to work with legendary producer Kim Fowley back in 1975. We see both Jett and Currie interacting at local Rock clubs and each of them was a stand out presence when it came down to it. Jett was a lot more “street smart” than Currie seemed to be but there is some focus paid mind to about the troubled Currie household with the distant mother figure and alcoholic father which ended up giving Cheri her own issues. We see Jett impress Fowley with her ideas about forming an all girl band and the introductions are made to drummer Sandy West and eventually guitarist Lita Ford and their bass player. Interestingly enough the bands original bass player Jackie Fox is not portrayed and we instead get a created for film magic person in “Robin”. The band chooses Currie and works with her to get her up to speed and soon it was time to make some music magic. Kim manages to get the band signed to Mercury Records and then we watch them do a tour in Japan which ended up giving them super popularity. The downside is that addictions being dealt with by Currie and her being seen as the focal point of the group causes band rifts and an eventual blowout with guitarist Lita Ford. Cheri quits the group after this and it was interesting to see this battle be the largest presence in the film by the Lita character. Clearly the movie was mainly focusing on Jett and Currie. Oh well, that is bound to happen. From this breakup we watch Currie decline deeper into addiction until she gets some help and cleans up. During this time Jett has kept The Runaways in action until deciding to form her own band The Blackhearts.

As the movie draws to a close we find Cheri working a mundane job while one of Jett’s tunes is played on the radio. She calls into the station and the pair speaks for the first time in years. Its great cinema but one had to wonder if this really ever happened. I didn’t read the book so cannot tell you and Joan and I are not close enough for me to tap her for the details. It’s a bittersweet kind of ending but worked out well enough for this kind of movie. It kept my interest from beginning to end and I did like it. I do however think I would have enjoyed a few more performance segments instead of some of the talking. The film has a solid soundtrack behind it with the obvious helping of Jett and Runaways tunes plus other songs that were relevant to the bands formation time period. While I don’t think I would want to own this film since I was never the biggest study of their work, I will say that it is worth renting and watching with friends. It’s a good band film if you like those kinds of things and one that might make you and your fellow musicians change the way you deal with each other before rifts and breakups and eventual distance like we see in the film can happen.

Kudos to Stewart and Fanning for bringing these characters to life. You can learn more about the history of the band by clicking their Wikipedia entry HERE.

2 thoughts on “Film Review: “The Runaways” (2010)”

  1. I think Kristen Stewart did a phenomenal job. She seemed immersed in Joan and even looked eerily like her. I found her performance to be quite convincing. Loved it. Lita, although her role was small, really seemed like a young Lita. Dakota Fanning is an awesome actress, but I only thought she was OK. Did you catch Tatum O’Neal as the mother?

    I haven’t read Neon Angel yet, but its on my list. Since the movie is from Cherie’s point of view, its angle is rather limited. I am particularly looking forward to seeing the documentary (also available on Netflix streaming video) that came out several months ago on the Runaways.

  2. I watched this in On Demand over the weekend. I liked it, but I agree with you, not enough to buy it. Lita did not sell her life rights and Jackie West threatened to sue–or so I read. I read these factors are part of why it took them so long to make a film about The Runaways. Since she has been solo, I wondered if the demise of The Runaways is why Joan Jett has always been the only woman in her band. There are people today who may have never heard of The Runaways, but they were historic. It is hard to believe that people actually told them that girls do not play rock music.

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