Film: The Runaways
Starring: Dakota Fanning & Kristen Stewart
Studio: Apparition Studios
Genre: Rock Documentary
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.