Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Jack Attack Review: The Runaways

Sometimes, I learn about a movie that is in production or I see a preview for a certain film, and I get super stoked on it. When I read months ago that Kirsten Stewart was going to play Joan Jett and Dakota Fanning was going to portray Cherie Currie in a movie about the all girl rock band The Runaways, I was pumped. Most of what I read lead me to believe it was a Joan Jett bio-pic, which I was excited about because I really admire and like Joan Jett. Three or four months ago was the first time I saw a trailer for the film, and that pumped me up even more. I've been building up the excitement on this one, and my expectations became high.

Last week, I saw The Runaways and I left the theater feeling utterly disappointed. I still haven't figured out if it just didn't live up to my expectations, or if it was just a disappointing movie in general. A couple things right off the bat: the film is not a Joan Jett bio-pic, but a Cherie Currie bio-pic. The script is based on Cherie's memoir, so the film focuses on her almost the entire time. I was wanting more of Joan Jett, or even more about the relationship between the girls in the band. The film basically left out the other band members, the other girls (with the exclusion of Joan Jett) had only a handful of lines, and most of them were related to how unfair it was that Cherie was always the center of attention. I'm sure this movie didn't rehash old wounds.
Anyway, when the film first started, I had high hopes. One of the first scenes is Cherie Currie lip-synching a David Bowie song at her high school. She's dressed in full glam gear and even has the David Bowie lightning bolt painted on her face. The kids boo her and throw stuff at her while she's up on stage, and she stops what she's doing, and proceeds to flip them off. This was probably my favorite scene in the entire cracked me up.

Another early scene shows Joan Jett going to a guitar lesson. When she tells the teacher (who is male) that she wants to play electric guitar, not acoustic, he tells her that girls don't play electric guitar. She plugs her guitar into the amp anyway, jams in his face, and then leaves. This was the kind of stuff I had been hoping for with this movie. A statement about women in the rock and roll industry - how they were tough-as-nails chicks that weren't going to take shit from anybody. That's why Joan Jett is so freakin' awesome! She didn't listen to society, she changed the
norms. She was one badass bitch. Unfortunately, this is the only scene in the movie that really touches on that kind of progression.

The scenes with their manager are probably the most interesting ones. Michael Shannon plays their manager, Kim Fowley, and he steals every scene he is in. He is so ridiculous, over-the-top, and outrageous, that I couldn't take my eyes off him. Kim Fowley convinces the girls that they need to be tough to survive in the world of rock and roll, but he does this by abusing them - mostly verbally but sometimes physically, as well.

The film was just far too generic, it even included a montage of newspaper clippings that stated how big The Runaways were becoming. Really? A montage of headliners? The narrative fell flat, as well. It vaguely touches on the fact that Cherie Currie had a less than ideal home life with a drunk dad and a mom who moves to India. (I think it was India, now I'm having trouble remembering. It was a country far away, though.) She gets seen by Kim Fowley at a night club, and is recruited into The Runaways. She's only 15 at the time, so I can see how the rock and roll lifestyle is a jarring experience, but I've already seen the story of the rock star spiralling into drug addiction. I get it. Fame leads to drugs, which leads to downfall. Show me something new, why don't ya?

Here's another thing that bothered me: I felt like the lesbian scenes in the film were unnecessary. Let me make this clear, I have nothing against lesbians, and I have no problem watching films that are focused around homosexual characters. I also know that Joan Jett is rumored to be bi-sexual, so it's not a huge surprise that they would incorporate this into the film. But, it just didn't work for me because I felt like the scenes that did involve homosexuality were exploitive. The sex scene between Joan Jett and Cherie Currie, I felt, was more of the production company saying, "Hey, I know what would be great! If we had two attractive, young, female actresses kissing! People will like that!" The relationship between the two was never really analyzed. Instead, there was their sex scene that came out of nowhere, and the film never delved any deeper than that.

Anyway, I thought the acting by Kirsten Stewart and Dakota Fanning was good. I know a lot of people may discredit Kirsten Stewart because she is in the Twilight movies, but I think she was good in other stuff like Into the Wild and Speak. Dakota Fanning is always amazing, and I think she's becoming a really diverse actress. This film just didn't allow them the ability to expand on their roles.

So, overall, big disappointment. I did like the cinematography, though, and the costumes were pretty awesome, too.

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