"The Runaways" isn't much of a film, but it has so much damn style thatit's hard not to be intermittently enthused by music video directorFloria Sigismondi's music video of a movie. Her chipper cutting andblisteringly upbeat Joan Jett/Runaways soundtrack makes, on one hand,for spontaneous and thrilling tour sequences, which on the other,emphasize how hopelessly average the narrative around them is.Sigismondi has worked with the likes of Sheryl Crow and David Bowie,and understands the symbiotic relationship between sound and imageTheproblem is that when the film rolls sans tunage, she can't quite findthe rhythm.
I suppose she didn't have the best script to work with, and as she'salso credited with the adaptation of Cherie Currie's book, I'm inclinedto blame conservative manipulation of fact in her writing before herdirection. Knowing literally nothing about the Runaways as a band goingin, I couldn't care less if "That's how it happened." In truth, I foundtheir rise to superstardom in the first act of the film fortuitous tothe point of contrivance.
The truth may be stranger than fiction, but watching characters I metten minutes ago immediately succeed isn't endearing, it's alienating,especially in proximity to yet another groaningly caricatural cinematicbusinessman. You've got Giovanni Ribisi in "Avatar," Jon Bernthal in"The Ghost Writer," and now Michael Shannon in "The Runaways," all inthe span of, what, four months? Hollywood, I get it. Corporate guys areweasels. Even your corporate guys. With the omission of Jeremy Piven, Ijust don't find it funny or compelling anymore. It's cheap, lazycharacter writing.
But Shannon's performance in "The Runaways" is a minor gripe comparedwith its overall insubstantiality. The band biopic is nothing new, andwhile I commend Sigismondi for not watering down the sex, drugs, androck and roll to cater to the sort of PG-13 audience that would eat upanything Kristen Stewart is doing by peripheral association, her filmis still intellectually immature and fundamentally broken.
For starters, Stewart as Joan Jett has every reason to be ourprotagonist except a book deal. Cherie's got a louse of a father, astrained relationship with her sister, and a burgeoning singing careercomplete with a trendy drug habit. Really, movie? The 'price of fame'angle? Give me a break. The family stuff should carry weight, anddoesn't, because the bulk of the film is bubblegum, which I'm perfectlycontent to chew. Just don't tell me it's a three-course meal.
"The Runaways" is overlong. Its second half, which sinks into theband's inevitable downturn of fortune, comes to a screeching halt toflesh out story bits that I didn't care about to begin with. Sing that"Cherry Bomb" song again.
The problem is there's no reason to care, and entertainment value alonedoesn't cover for the obviously weak story. And if the story is weak,as I suspect it is, because it's based nearly to the T on the honest toGod truth, then with all due respect, it doesn't make for great cinemaas is. Aspiring biopic writers, here's a tip: lie a little.
It's ultimately character that begets emotional gravity, not an eventitself. Pill popping, drunkard dads, and band infighting don't amountto a hill of beans unless I really care about who those people are.
Sigismondi's film is strung up on the rack and pulled from both endsuntil its neither frenetic rock pic nor indie coming of age story,which is a shame, because the former is executed so well. When themusic stops, it's all too clear that as far as drama goes, "TheRunaways" is an absentee.
There's Johnny Cash, and there's Ray Charles, and now get ready forHollywood's latest biopic on the all female rock group The Runaways,based on lead singer Cherie Currie's book Neon Angel: A Memoir of aRunaway, from which the screenplay was adapted from. Written anddirected by Italian filmmaker Floria Sigismondi, as far as biographieson musical legends go, this film still adheres to the same formula, butonly because the fate of the stars are such that temptation to gowayward comes stronger for anyone who's a somebody, and frankly suchmeteoric rise and fall makes for an engrossing drama.
With bands though, an additional element comes in the form of inflatedegos that have to be massaged. Unfortunately out of the five members,only drummer Sandy West (Stella Maeve) share some of the spotlight upfront, with the remaining two Lita Ford (Scout Taylor- Compton) andJackie Fox (unmentioned by name in the film) relegated to draping thebackground almost anonymously and one might think that The Runaways area trio. And similar to what Alvin and the Chipmunks Squekeul did as aparallel to real world happenings, band managers, in this case KimFowley played by Michael Shannon in an arresting performance who knowsexactly what's required to survive in the dog-eat-dog industry, almostalways want to sex up and boost the lead's popularity even further,which will cause unhappiness amongst the others in the same group. Butwho can help it, since from the onset both Kim and Joan Jett (KristenStewart) wanted a Brigitte Bardot sex kitten to front the lead vocalsfor their band, who comes in the form of Dakota Fanning's CherieCurrie.
Much has been said of Dakota Fanning's performance as Cherie Currie,and true to form she shows again why she's probably the undisputedactress of her generation. I strongly believe if she stays the courseand not get distracted by the glitz and glamour that most teenage starsin Hollywood will likely succumb to, then movie fans, and fans of hers,will be in for many treats in store as she expands her filmography. Sofar she has been confined to playing her age over the last few years,and her role here as the jailbait of a rock star allows for a descentinto vice coming all at once, dabbling with almost every vice you canthink of. Her Cherie pouts as she experiments with fleeting same sexrelationships with Joan Jett, swearing, no hesitation in showing themiddle fingers, puffs away on cigarettes, does cocktail and hard drugsalmost everywhere, and like a one-up in portraying the state ofdrunkenness as to what she had done in Push, though still not veryconvincing. It's Dakota Fanning like you've never seen her before.
Kristen Stewart managed to barely hold her own against her co-star'smore charismatic and iconic turn, and thankfully the opportunity camein the last act of the film with the formation of Joan Jett and theBlackhearts, who are heard rather than seen since this is The Runawaysbiopic. It served the narrative quite well though in ending the filmwith the unfortunate demise of one and the creation of another,highlighting Joan Jett being the brains and creative force behind thebands. Between the two girls, hers is the edgier role playing very wellopposite the sex-kittenish one that Fanning has on her hands, and puttogether they just crackle and come alive with plenty of energy onstage, or when practicing in their trailer park behind closed doors,working on new songs. Forget Twilight, as Stewart shows that she hasenough mettle in her to take on more challenging roles rather than agirl who has to deal solely with relationship woes with unrealcreatures.
The Runaways contained enough subplots happening outside