Monday, December 20, 2010

More 'The Runaways' Reviews added (Part 2)

| Part 1 |



Enjoy!

Please keep in mind that reviews can contain spoilers, lots of spoilers, and that negative reviews can be interesting to read.
If you have more reviews, feel free to email me. :)


REVIEWS

•• Home Theater Info: Biographies have always been a great source of material for films. Even if there is only a slight dollop of reality contained in the story audiences appear to react favorably towards and movie claiming ‘based and true events’. Realistically, you would be better served to read the book or books used as the source material for the film but if you go into it with the expectation of entertainment over elucidation than a bio-pic can be as lot of fun. This seems to hold especially true for biographically inclined films based on the lives of popular musicians. There is nothing new about this trend. In the forties several hit films were about big band leaders or the crooner at the top of the charts. Even in recent years biographies of Ray Charles and Johnny Cash not only drew in the audiences but took home a considerable number of awards to boot. One very special portion of this genre concerns the music of my generation; rock and roll. A rock oriented bio-pic affords the film maker ample opportunity to include every facet required for great entertainment; energy, hard driving music and of course the often lethal combination of sex and drugs. One of the latest films to take on this very specific genre is ‘The Runaways’, a glimpse at the rapid rise and ultimate self destruction of one of the first and still most famous female rock band; ‘Joan Jett and the Runaways’. A parental warning is in order at this point. Parents will recognize several of the actresses in this movie and associate them with movies considered suitable for the tweens in your family. Do not go by the cast here; this is not a film intended for children and is rated ‘R’ for very good reasons. For those of us that remembers this pivotal era in rock and roll. Even if you are not in this demographic you will still be highly entertained by synergetic performances and some stellar performances.

The direction and screenplay was executed by a newcomer in both arenas of endeavor Floria Sigismondi. While her prior experience was not in feature films she has directed numerous music video collections including one for s more recent female rocker; Sheryl Crow also working with the likes of Bjork and David Bowie. The basis of the main story is the autobiographical work by one of the primary members of the band Cherie Currie, ‘Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway’. Ironically for one of the pioneers of hard punk rock her last listed credits were a multi-episode arc on the king of the retirement home ‘Matlock’. Fortunately the time period covered here was set during Ms Currie’s more salacious period. The film symbolically sets the stage with a common enough occurrence although one that can pale a strong man; a drop of menstrual blood. The universal sign of a young girl becoming a woman here takes on a different meaning here. In this context it represents the feminization of rock and roll. Even in that the Runaways altered the view of femininity from the old fashion sugar and spice to demonstrate to the world that young women can rock as hard as any man. Unfortunately the affectations of the rock and roll lifestyle would exert the same deleterious effects one these women as they often did with the guys. The film focuses primarily on Currie remarkably played by Dakota Fanning and her ‘Twilight Saga’ co star Kristen Stewart as their front woman Joan Jett. Rounding out the group but relegated to the background are lead guitarist Lita Ford (Scout Taylor-Compton), drummer Sandy West (Stella Maeve) and bassist Jackie Fox who for some unexplained reason is called Robin (Alia Shawkat) in this movie. Although titled ‘The Runaways’ this is actually about the influence of Jett and Currie on the mid seventies’ music scene.

Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon) was just looking for someone with enough talent and a unique hook that he can parley into the big personal score. The movie shows hoe he thought he had a kitten by the tail with 15 year old Currie (Fanning’s age during the filming) but Cherry and Joan soon proved to be a pair of unstoppable tigresses.

The purpose of the film is not to provide a historically accurate look at these young women but rather to present a feel for the time; transmitting the energy not necessarily the facts. To that goal the film certain succeeds. Watching a heavily made up, corseted Fanning belting out a powerhouse rendition of Cherry Pie is disconcerting at first. After all we all watched her grow up in films we loved. This was the child who gave interviews on TV with her front teeth missing. Back in 1975 when Currie took the stage with the same look it had a similar affect. It was an end of innocence as women took center stage in the previously male only world of heavy rock. All child stars have to face the transition to mature roles. Fanning and Stewart hit the ground running here. The casting is perfect for a story about a manipulative man trying to launch ‘jail-bait’ rock only to discover these young women not only had the talent to make it without him but the drive to make him superfluous. What was created as a novelty act became a sensation altering the course or rock paving the way for the women who would follow. The direction avoids the feel of an overly extended music video capturing the essence of the lead characters. It does not present much in the way of details but makes up for this with a drive of its own. The movie is excellent for showcasing the enhanced audio of high def giving a pulsating sound stage accompanying a robust color palette.


•• Critical Movie Critics, Colin Harris: Rating 3/5
The Runaways were a peculiar phenomenon. They were less of a band than a product, and the product they sold was teen rebellion. The five-girl band was fronted by sixteen year old Cherie Currie, Joan Jett was on tousled mop and rhythm guitar, Lita Ford played lead, Sandy West was the drummer, and they had a revolving door for the many bass players that came and went. They were created by Kim Fowley, a refugee of the psychedelic Sixties, who put them together in 1975. He taught them to be aggressive, sexy — no bras allowed — and jailbait. The songs weren’t important, although the ‘Cherry Bomb’ single became well-known. As far as popularity goes, they were so-so in America, lesser-known in Britain, and perhaps the original ‘Big in Japan’ band. Currie wrote a book about her time in The Runaways and this movie is an adaptation of it.

It’s too bad that The New York Dolls got there first: Too Much, Too Soon would have been a perfect title for The Runaways. One minute, fifteen-year-old Currie is miming Bowie at a school talent show, the next she’s being hand-chosen by Fowley to front the band merely because he liked her image. Whether she could sing or not was an afterthought. The band lasted for less than three years, but what a three years they were. Fowley’s machinations got them front and centre in the American press in a model aped by Malcolm McLaren a year later; they made two albums (just like the Dolls, incidentally); had a phenomenal — and unchaperoned — tour of Japan; and because of the lack of any formal management they lived that famous rock-star euphemism: they experimented with drugs.

We see all of this in The Runaways, but we only get Currie and to a lesser extent Jett’s side of the story. The other three members of the band are pretty much non-existent, as far as this movie is concerned. So, we learn that Currie had an alcoholic father, a sister who wanted to be just like her, and a mother who all but abandoned her by moving to Indonesia with her new husband. Currie was a sweet girl, but with the rebellious streak that fifteen-year old girls have. Even with that rebellion she was uncomfortable selling Fowley’s ideas (unlike Jett who embraced them). As time passed, Currie was coerced into using her body for publicity — one Hustler-type photo shoot (arranged by Fowley) was a major contributing factor in their Japanese success — and the drugs just followed on as sure as night follows day. Allegedly, all of the members of The Runaways slept with each other at some point, but the movie concentrates solely on her affair with Jett, with the latter instigating the tryst. Having said that, the matter of sex is treated conservatively in this movie — I was almost expecting the camera to slide right to a burning fireplace at one point during their clinch — but in all fairness Dakota Fanning, as Currie, was herself fifteen at the time of this movie’s filming so allowances should be made. She captures Currie’s lack of certainty well, and is well cast. Kristen Stewart, as Jett, fares even better. Do not dismiss this actress lightly just because she’s the star of the teen-favorite Twilight series; she nails Jett’s style perfectly. Watching her perform Jett’s hunched guitar style onstage was spookily accurate. Rounding the trio off is the ever-dependable Michael Shannon, as Fowley. Here is an actor of great range. One only has to look at three of his roles to see how versatile he is — compare Shotgun Stories, Revolutionary Road and now this. Here he’s high camp, loud and brash, and peps up every scene he’s in.

Whether or not much of this story is true is open to debate, but I suspect that Currie and Jett have been captured in a more favorable light, which is understandable when you consider that one wrote the book and the other is the executive producer of the movie. First-time director and music-video stalwart Floria Sigismondi shot the film with an edgy, punky look in keeping with the subject matter, but not so much that it takes away from the story. I guess my only real problem with the movie is that it’s fairly mundane for the music biopic; band gets together, make it big, do drugs, fame goes to their heads, rifts develop, band splits up, end credits. I’m loathe to call The Runaways inventors of girl-rock as there were many before them — like the splendidly named Fanny, for example — but the influence they had on later bands like L7 or particularly The Donnas is undeniable. For people interested in music history, of which I am undeniably one, The Runaways is a film worth seeing. As Fowley tells Currie, “This is controversy, this is publicity, this is a juicy story. It’s all about press, not about prestige.”

At the end of the movie, ‘Where Are They Now’ captions tell us that Currie is now a chainsaw artist (ahem), Jett still performs, and Fowley can still be spotted in LA. There is no mention of any of the others. Now why on earth could that be?

•• IGN, Patrick Kolan: Attitude goes a long way. That statement actually ends up explaining the short-lived successes of all-girl rock outfit The Runaways as well as that of the titular film. Both had the capacity for greatness but fell short – and if it wasn't for the image and posturing, both would likely be just as forgettable. Instead, the new film from writer/director Floria Sigismondi (who previously worked in and around the music video scene) is stylish, fast and disposable with enough smeared lipstick and running eyeliner to make your typical pop starlet blush.

At the centre of what is essentially a sexed up teen rock-drama are Kristen Stewart, who most teens will recognize for her lead role in the Twilight films, and Dakota Fanning, the doe-eyed blonde child star of just about every horror-thriller in want of a doe-eyed blonde child star.

Fanning finally ditches her precocious and plucky ways with a darker role that may well alter her image permanently. Likewise Stewart portrays rock legend Joan Jett with edge and vitriol as she powers into the spotlight as songwriter and guitarist of The Runaways – a manufactured rock outfit with some actual chops. Fanning falls into the line-up after eccentric slime ball manager Kim Fowley (a wonderfully hammy and flamboyant Michael Shannon) takes a shine to her and puts her vocals to the test.

Naturally, the girls - all on the wrong side of 18 - eventually succumb to the glamour and indulgences of instant stardom; The Runaways does a good job of presenting the downward spiral of Fanning's Cherie Currie, the lead singer who loses control and eventually her grip on reality.

Having an appreciation for the subject matter going into the cinema is something of a requisite for any music-themed movie; not knowing who Joan Jett is or having lived through the Lohan-like nosedive of Cherie Currie might in fact alienate the teen audience for which this film clearly aims. However, in a 'Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains' kind of way, there's a universal accessibility to watching these girls rebel against the status quo (no pun).

That's actually The Runaways' biggest flaw; the first half of the film lays on the rebellion so thickly that it's hard not to scoff every subsequent time producer Fowley drags his band-whelps in line with a 'You're girls! They don't want you to rock!' By the fifth time this is underlined, we started wishing Jett and company would hurry up with the pills and powders and overdosing already – such was the transparency of the self-actualizing prophesy at work in the screenwriting.

When the drugs do start to take control of Currie and company, the direction loosens up and gets a little more interesting; shot with an eye for framing and depth-of-field, the Runaways is awash with smoky reds and earthy browns. The costuming is consciously overdone and perfectly believable in the same stroke, while edits are sharp and playful, keeping musical sequences entertaining, even if the material reminds us of why Joan Jett made it big – but the Runaways faded into obscurity.

However, it's the performances in The Runaways that made for the most memorable moments – a refreshing and surprising result for a director with minimal theatrical experience. Dakota Fanning arguably puts in the most natural performance, displaying a vulnerability and naivety that are both tragic and believable. The interplay between her and her sister, who is well cast but on different levels in terms of line delivery, pales in comparison to scenes between her and Stewart's Jett. Stewart doesn't so much act as exude a dirty presence in every frame; she's charismatic visually, and when she eventually lets go and starts hurling bottles and letting loose, we see the ability she does her best to hide in Twilight.

It's Fanning's lingerie scenes and sexualized image that will sadly overshadow the rest of the film's qualities though; although Currie was famously overexposed during her brief lead-singer tenure, the film really plays these scenes up, sprinkling in a few intimate moments between her and Jett – more to please the lads in the crowd than to make any overt statements we suspect.

Never letting truth get in the way of a good story, The Runaways mixes bubblegum teen drama, classic family frustrations and a ripping pace together with a predictably bittersweet story. At times buying a little too deeply into self-importance, the dialogue doesn't quite match the weight of the performances, but that's also exactly why the band failed too. The Runaways succeeds in being as brash and trashy as the source material, and just as fun.


•• The Sydney Morning Herald, Paul Byrnes: Rating 3/5
The Runaways is about the all-girl rock band that launched Joan Jett and almost killed Cherie Currie in the late 1970s. Dakota Fanning, aged 15 when the film was made last year, plays Currie, who was 15 when she joined the band in November 1975. Kristen Stewart, who's four years older, plays Jett, who was only 16 when she formed the Runaways.

I dwell on the ages because this is partly a film about the exploitation of teenage girls by the soulless masculine machine of popular music. The film's director, an Italian-born photographer and music-video maker, tells us with pointed casting that she's focusing on Hollywood exploitation as well.

Tatum O'Neal plays Cherie's mother, an actor who walks out on Cherie and her twin sister, Marie (played by Riley Keough, Elvis Presley's granddaughter), early in the film. Her presence inevitably reminds us that movies were chewing up young girls before rock music was born.

I suspect these troubled family scenes are designed to make it clear that Currie's drug addiction and emotional collapse were not just caused by rock'n'roll. She was the ticking bomb in Cherry Bomb, the song that made the band famous. It went to No. 1 in Japan in 1977 and the speed of the band's rise fractured both the band and Currie. They broke up in 1979 but Currie had already left the band in late '77. She was shredded by cocaine before she was 18.

It's an old story but the movie doesn't oversimplify things. There are a number of ways to interpret what we're seeing. In one sense, the villain of the film appears to be glam-rock record producer Kim Fowley, played by Michael Shannon as a devil in blue make-up. The predatory Fowley put Jett with drummer Sandy West (played in the movie by Stella Maeve) during the northern summer of 1975. Lita Ford brought powerful guitar playing and Micki Steele was the first of a string of bass players (pun intended).

Fowley was their Svengali, creating the leather-and-hotpants look, somewhere between Suzi Quatro and David Bowie. ''You bitches are gonna be bigger than the Beatles,'' he yells at them, which is about the least-offensive line he utters. ''This isn't about women's lib, it's about women's libido!''

He's like a more camp version of Malcolm McLaren but Shannon's performance makes it clear that he is an act. Fowley abuses, threatens and humiliates the teenagers as they practise in a hot caravan in the San Fernando Valley. He gets teenage boys to throw dried dog turds at them to simulate a hostile gig. By the time they do start playing in public, they're more ready to fight than play - and the men at their concerts oblige by throwing things. No one wants to hear women who rock at this stage.

Fowley sends the band out on the road without proper supervision, while he spends their money in Los Angeles. Joan and Cherie soon fall into each other's beds, adding greatly to the film's naughty marketability. For a film about teen exploitation, this runs pretty close to qualifying itself, as Fanning makes out with Stewart, her co-star from the Twilight movies. Nothing like wagging a finger as you look for a tabloid headline: ''Teen vampires kiss in sordid rock movie''.

The film is based partly on Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway, by Currie, who survived the '80s as an actor and became a drug counsellor. I haven't read it but it's said to be brutally honest.

In TV interviews, Currie has described how ''a person in authority'' made all of the band members sit and watch him have sex in a hotel in San Diego as part of their ''breaking in'' to the rock life. In later editions of the book, she names that person as Fowley. She also says she was raped by her sister's boyfriend before joining the band but the filmmakers did not want her character to lose her innocence so early in the film. So much for honesty.

Perhaps the main source in the film is Jett, the executive producer. This is an authorised biography, albeit made without the co-operation of Fowley or Ford (played by Scout Taylor-Compton), who had her own solo success after the Runaways. The bass player changed so often they have created a fictional composite named Robin (Alia Shawkat). We are seeing a version of the story acceptable to Currie and Jett and that's all.

So if it's incomplete and partly inaccurate, how good can it be? Well, it has problems but it does do one thing well: it captures the madness and exhilaration of being young, hungry and female in '70s rock'n'roll, a time when when glam rock and punk collided with a sort of feminism.

Fowley shapes and misuses them but he's never the main character. Fanning and Stewart give the band some core strength, especially Stewart, who makes you believe that for Jett, it was always about the music, not the clothes or the jailbait image. For Currie, it was never about that, because she was a mess before she started.

One of the main problems is that neither character develops enough to own the movie. There's no single point of view, perhaps because Jett wants to be fair to all concerned, even Fowley. The director can't get deep inside any of her characters, so she looks at the way they were manipulated, while conceding they played their parts willingly.

All of this means the film feels more like reportage than drama. That has its own attractions but it's not enough to make it feel like a great movie.


•• FilmInk, Erin Free: Eschewing the traditional rock biopic format, the film evocatively recreates the era and the pitch-perfect performances capture the high emotions of the time.

With its striking opening image - a drop of menstrual blood splashing onto a hot strip of asphalt - The Runaways makes its position powerfully, abundantly clear: this is a film by girls, for girls, and about girls. It's a bold stand, but one that works perfectly considering the film's subject matter. The titular seventies rock group was made up of teenage girls, and they blazed a trail that helped subsequent generations of female rockers stake their own claim in what was once a purely male-dominated field. Debut writer/director Floria Sigismondi (a highly original voice in the world of music videos) inventively turns her back on the traditional rock biopic format, instead delivering an almost impressionistic coming of age film told from a distinctively feminine perspective.

The film begins in the heady mid-seventies, with tomboy wannabe rocker Joan Jett (Kristen Stewart is just the right mix of vulnerability and jutting-chin aggression as this future rock icon) looking to make her mark on the music scene. When she pitches the idea of an all-girl rock group to promoter and industry player Kim Fowley (the wonderfully voluble Michael Shannon), he hooks her up with sex kitten singer Cherie Currie (the brilliant Dakota Fanning in a performance of startling, uninhibited physicality). The Runaways are soon born, and the girls are quickly up to their bottom lips in drugs, fame, notoriety, and the throttling effects of their own burgeoning sexuality.

While nuts-and-bolts details are never checked off (it's never quite clear what stage of their career The Runaways are in, and all the record industry power mongering happens off camera), Floria Sigismondi gives the film a visceral kick that makes you vicariously feel the swirling emotional firestorm that these young girls found themselves in the middle of. From the actresses gamely doing their own singing, to the grubby, fumbling sex scenes, The Runaways breathlessly seethes with hard fought authenticity.


•• Trespass Magazine, Beth Wilson: Musicians make excellent fodder for films, their stories more often than not involve youth, drugs, sex and fashion as well as the not insignificant aid of a ready-to-use soundtrack. The twist that The Runaways bring to this genre is gender. Together from 1975 to 1979, The Runaways were an all-girl American band. The teenage musicians had hits like Cherry Bomb, Queens of Noise and Born to be Bad. Even though their band-life was short, The Runaways are viewed to have been hugely influential, specifically for opening up the punk/rock music terrain for female artists. It is this story of girls gone wild, rebelling against convention and society that this film sets up, focusing on the relationship between lead singer, Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning) and rhythm guitarist/songwriter, Joan Jett (Kristen Stewart).

Starting with the drummer, Sandy West (Stella Maeve, Transamerica) and Jett coming up with a musical style for a girl band and the search for a suitable lead singer, the film charts the formation of The Runaways, aided by music producer, Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road). Showing the quick success of the band, specifically concerned with their 1977 sold out tour in Japan, the film highlights the impacts of drugs and in-fighting on its demise.

Director Floria Sigismondi, with her background in music videos has created a film that captures the grime and salaciousness of the story, without completely exploiting the characters within it (Fanning does seem to spend a large part of the film in underwear). The Runaways is certainly a visually stylish film, with the influences of glam rock and punk that the music extols- this is a film that is very much more concerned with attitude than truth.

There are definite scripting problems with The Runaways- most obviously the imbalance between the film’s central parts- partially due to the film’s source material- Cherie Currie’s book Neon Angels: Memoir of a Runaway. Slowly, but surely, attention shifts almost solely over to Currie, with far less time and interest given to Jett’s background or home life (interestingly Joan Jett is the Executive Producer on the film, so maybe that’s how she wanted it). However Jett’s slow edging out of the story is nothing compared to the limited representation of the rest of the band. Lead guitarist, Lita Ford (South Taylor Compton, Rob Zombies’ Halloween) and fictional bassist, Robin (Alia Shawkat, Whip It)- in reality the bassists changed over the years- turn up in the band without any explanation or background, in fact it is hard to remember if Shawkat even has a speaking part, Sandy West’s character fares a little better, but not much. The Runaways definitely feels like it narrowed the field of play down too far, so much so that it would be wrong to label this film as a biopic of the band.

You watch this film with partial wonder and partial concern. The exploitation of the group as ‘jailbait’ and specifically the manufacturing of Currie’s image as Lolita-eque sex kitten by Fowley undermines the ‘girl-power’ message of the band’s music. Shannon is fantastic as Fowley and does a fair amount of scene-stealing. Both Fanning and Stewart do well with the material, especially given the added component of singing and playing instruments. Stewart shows off a tougher persona than we usually see from her, proving she is far more than just a pout. Ultimately though the standout in the film is Fanning, who seems to be successfully transitioning from child to adult actor.


•• Herald Sun, Leigh Paatsch: Rating 3/5
The American all-girl pop-metal band The Runaways was just too far ahead of its time for its own good.

In 1976, the world was not equipped to process the confronting sight (and sounds) of five tough chicks playing with raw, sexualised aggression.

Or was that playing with fire? The average age of The Runaways when they signed their first and last recording contract was 16 years and 6 months.

After churning out 5 albums in 2 years - and never once troubling the US charts in that time - The Runaways imploded. Burnt-out, bitter, and for certain members, never to recover from being chewed up and spat out by the music business at such a tender age.

Quite obviously, there is a doozy of a tale to be told by this indie biopic. Unfortunately, first-time filmmaker Floria Sigismondi does not always get across just how remarkable the story of The Runaways truly must have been at the time.

A veteran of the music video scene, Sigismondi gets excitedly carried away with the period setting of her movie. And with such a glorious production design at her disposal - seriously, The Runaways looks so utterly 70s that your pants could sprout bell-bottoms in sympathy - it is almost a forgiveable mistake.

Almost. No, what we really have here is a smudged love letter to the heroic teen rebellion of the notorious quintet. However, deciphering any real meaning from the flame-out of The Runaways is almost impossible.

Luckily, there are three fantastic lead performances that always keep things on the right side of watchable.

Dakota Fanning convincingly plays lead singer Cherie Currie - on whose book Neon Angel the screenplay is based - as a bad-attitude Bardot, complete with too much eyeliner and not enough clothes.

Currie was a reluctant focal point for the group, which traded unashamedly on a "jailbait" image styled and hustled by their predatory manager and producer, Kim Fowley.

Actor Michael Shannon channels the icky motivations of Fowley with a deranged and powerful intensity.

Last, but by no means least, is Kristen Stewart as The Runaways’ bassist, Joan Jett. Both the true heroine of the band - and yet, often, their own worst enemy - Jett lands on the screen as an incredibly complex, impossibly confident young woman.

Stewart thrives on this ever-contradictory character, pointing towards even bigger and better non-Twilight roles in the future.



•• Quickflix, Simon Miraudo: Rating 3/5
The Runaways is exactly what a music biopic should be, mostly. The film’s electrifying first two thirds eschew those tired music-biopic clichés of the artist’s piousness, their tortured genius, the moment where they say the title of their most famous song in the middle of some conversation and so on. It’s drenched in sex and drug-taking – in fact, even more so than it is in music. Director Floria Sigismondi brings the tale of this real-life pop-punk band to the screen with the traits of a vapid, glossy promo video. And it works! A shame about the length then. Just when you think they’ve gotten away with the world’s first all-rise rock’n’roll tale, Sigismondi crowbars in the scenes of drug rehabilitation, remorse and … gasp … people writing music with new purpose in their life. Sigh. The Runaways runs for almost two hours, but as everyone knows, the best punk songs are over as quickly as they began. After all, it’s better to burn out then fade away.

The year is 1975. Kristen Stewart stars as Joan Jett, an angry young woman whose music teacher informs her that “girls don’t play electric guitars”, and then proceeds to forge a career with one seemingly out of spite. On the other side of L.A., 15-year-old Cherie Currie’s (Dakota Fanning) adoration of David Bowie is growing into a full-blown imitation. Outside a club one night, Jett confronts flamboyant producer Kym Fowley (an insane Michael Shannon) to help her develop an all-girl punk band. He sees immediate dollar signs, and combines her talents with that of drummer Sandy West (Stella Maeve) guitarist Lita Ford (Scout Taylor Compton) and bass player Robin (Alia Shawkat – playing a fictional character).

The Bardot-esque Currie, a regular patron of the same club as Jett and Fowley, is recruited to be the provocative lead-singer. It’s not because she has the singing chops. It’s because a jailbaity front-woman is exactly what this project needs to generate some controversy. Dubbed ‘The Runaways’, the five teenage girls are let loose across America, and eventually Japan. They take advantage of their new freedom, dousing themselves in alcohol, consuming as many drugs as possible, and falling into bed with roadies, groupies and each other. But of course, it must all end with a fall. Such is the pitfalls of the road. Damn this fame monster!

It’s not that I have a problem with character development. Yes, fair enough, the rise and fall of the members of the self-destructive Runaways is fascinating in its own way. But haven’t we seen this story before? We know all the beats. Like all classic punk, the point is made not with the same four chords used in every song, but with the attitude and the swagger. For the first hour, The Runaways is all attitude and all swagger. By why the lazy last act shift? The real story here is about their groundbreaking, in-your-face sexuality. Or perhaps even the unbreakable bond between sex and rock music in general.

Stewart has long been the best thing about the Twilight series, and that franchises’ biggest crime is that it gives her nothing to do. Not so here. Finally free of Bella’s (hilariously) passive sexuality, she is able to unload (so to speak). Fanning is also fairly good as the pixie-esque Currie. They both embrace the childish nature of their characters, thus making their sexual exploration of one another – although brief – the film’s most fascinating angle. I mean, what are the implications of a culture where sexuality is celebrated above artistic worth? And how can two teen girls truly understand what they are doing with their bodies and their identities? And how should we feel about the fact that it is being rather saucily reconstructed in this biopic? The Runaways dances with these themes, in between – and occasionally during – the rollicking live performances. It goes further than Almost Famous, Taking Woodstock, and every other recent rock’n’roll film, only to wimp out in the final stretch and simply tie up the narrative loose ends.

The Runaways is indeed a lot of sexy, sexy fun. And thankfully Stewart and Fanning are good enough actresses to make the clichéd final act watchable. Of course, neither can match the manic, oddball intensity of Michael Shannon – desperately striving to be this generation’s Christopher Walken. It’s either a great performance or a very silly one. But I suppose if The Runaways is about anything, it’s that it doesn’t matter if the artist is good or bad. All that matters is that they have your undivided attention.


•• Spirituality and Practice, Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat: In 1975, Joan Jett (Kirsten Stewart) plays rhythm guitar and wants to start her own hard-rock band. At that time, such a thing was unheard of since rock 'n' roll was a male domain. Jett meets songwriter and producer Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon), who is always on the lookout for something different; when he encounters Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning), he immediately realizes that she will be the draw for the group with her Bardot-like face and body. Currie shows up at the audition ready to sing Peggy Lee's "Fever," but Fowley changes the song to "Cherry Bomb," a kick-out-the-jams rocker. Currie desperately wants to escape home which she shares with her dutiful sister Marie (Riley Keough) and her mother (Tatum O'Neal), who is moving in with a lover overseas. Currie's father (Brett Cullen) is an alcoholic.

The band expands and, after much coaching, Fowley has them ready for their first gig. As expected, the Runaways are jeered by the crowd and leave the stage being pelted by objects. Despite the widespread feeling that "chicks can't rock," the Runaways persevere and end up on the road playing small venues. Jett doesn’t seem to mind that all the media attention is focused on Currie, but other members of the band don't like it at all.

As in so many other musical bio-pictures, the pressures of the road and drugs soon take their toll on the band. In addition, the authoritarian nature of Fowley's shepherding of their brief career is too much for these teenage girls. They land a record contract and fly to Japan for a concert where they are greeted by adoring fans who react to them as if they were the Beatles.

The Runaways is based on the book Neon Angel: The Cherrie Currie Story by Cherrie Currie. Writer and director Floria Sigismondi has fashioned a spunky music-based bio-picture with three intriguing performances by Kristen Stewart as the single-minded rocker Joan Jett, Dakota Fanning as the singer who realizes that she's in over her head, and Michael Shannon as their over-the-top and flamboyant producer.

In an interview, Joan Jett once said: "I hope one day people don't look at women like they're out of their minds when they want to pick up an instrument and play. And I think we're getting a lot closer to that." For that accomplishment alone, The Runaways is worth seeing.


•• The Skinny, Becky Bartlett: Rating 3/5
Based on a novel by Cherie Currie, former front-woman of the radical teen rock band The Runaways, this biopic of the same name follows the predictable route laid down by many other rock biopics. It charts the rise to stardom and inevitable drugs-and-scandal-related fall of the 70s group, yet stands out because of the excellent performances by the young cast. The focus of the film is primarily on Currie (Dakota Fanning) rather than founding member Joan Jett (who wrote many of the songs), while the other band members are often little more than background additions.

Yet Fanning is a delight on screen, indicating a successful transition from child star to respected actor, while Kristen Stewart is perfectly suited to play Jett, slouching and hiding behind her hair. Despite a rousing, authentic soundtrack, The Runaways is let down by its inability to decide where the story ends, but it will doubtless resonate with anyone who ever dreamed of quitting school to become a rock star.


•• Ultra Culture: Rating 6/10
With it’s lookie-likee casting and amazingly straightforward title (hit single Cherry Bomb might have been a better choice given that they play it in its entirety about a dozen times), The Runaways didn’t look like it was going to revolutionise the world of rock biopics. And it doesn’t. But it is quite good.

It condenses significant events to an extent that makes Ray look like a masterpiece of subtle storytelling, so yes MY NAME’S JETT, JOAN JETT and you’re a old-fashioned music teacher who tells me that GIRLS DON’T PLAY ELECTRIC GUITARS but FUCK YOU, THE MAN and then we audition CURRIE, CHERIE CURRIE and in the audition we also write CHERRY BOMB, CH-CH-CH-CH-CHERRYBOMB and she JOINS THE BAND and SINGS CHERRY BOMB ALL IN THE SPACE OF 3 MINUTES. It’s exhausting.

Obviously, Michael Shannon is the best thing about any given movie, but Kristen Stewart is as good as ever and manages to go the entire 106 minute runtime without biting her lip, which is definitely something to be proud of. And Dakota Fanning, who I’ve unequivocally hated for the best part of ten years, is entirely decent.

It’s miles too long and doesn’t know when to shut up, but The Runaways is too much fun to really do any damage to the world.


•• The Independent, Anthony Quinn: Rating 2/5
Back in the mid-1970s the idea of an all-girl rock band was outlandish – not that lead guitarist Joan Jett (Kristen Stewart) could care.

First she recruits an inspirational but fraudulent promoter, Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon), and then a 15-year-old David Bowie fan, Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning), to front the group. Thus follow thrills, pills and a three-chord thrash that gets the band a record deal and cements their famous "Bad Reputation". "This isn't about women's lib," shouts Fowley, "it's about women's libido." Floria Sigismondi's film is somewhat lopsided, sketching in Currie's story of trailer-park hardscrabble with an alcoholic dad and absent mum (the script is based on her memoir, Neon Angel), but more or less ignoring the other Runaways. Given that the band were more about attitude than music, there's not a lot of substance here. What keeps it going is the performances, Stewart's sulky and driven Jett and Fanning's druggy, jailbait princess kicking ass in all quarters and not averse to some Sapphic smooching after hours. But it will not be mistaken for one of the great rock biopics.


•• London Evening Standard, Charlotte O'Sullivan: Watching this much-hyped biopic about pioneering, pill-popping Seventies all-girl band The Runaways is like going to the hairdressers and hearing a great song on the radio as you flick through Vogue. It’s not so much a shock to the system as a series of practised strokes, yet — for moments at a time — it makes you squirm happily in your seat.

The film is based on a rise-and-fall memoir by the band’s lead singer, Cherie Currie. The book includes a rape, various forms of sexual abuse and an abortion. The final version does not.

What we get, instead, is a love story between the blonde, damaged, doll-like Cherie (Dakota Fanning) and dark-haired, down-to-earth rhythm guitarist Joan Jett (Twilight’s Kristen Stewart; excellent). Age 15, the pair eye each other up, find themselves playing music together, then tumble into bed. Their bond remains strong, even when machiavellian manager Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon) arranges for Cherie to do a solo shoot with some sleazy Japanese photographers and a tour of Japan is derailed by her new "peep show" image.

Female director Floria Sigismondi is hardly averse to titillating visuals. She shamelessly hones in on her stars’ tiny chests and Twiglet thighs. But her interest in Jett — and Jett’s soft spot for girls with "Farrah Fawcett" hair — feels raunchy and wry. To this day, the mega-successful Jett (who executive-produced the film) prefers not to discuss her sexuality. Coyness has its uses, but how nice that the film itself is loud and proud.


•• Remotegoat, Kevin Sturton: "Girls don't play electric" a guitar teacher tells Joan (Kristen Stewart). Joan is not best pleased about this. She wants to rock out like the boys do. She's got a leather jacket and she's changed her name to Joan Jett. All she needs is a band. A chance meeting with music producer Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon) brings her together with Sandy West (Stella Maeve) and Lita Ford (Scout Taylor-Compton) to form the all-girl band The Runaways. Fowley completes the set by bringing in schoolgirl Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning) as lead singer and rechristening her Cherry Bomb.

The Runaways were one of the first all girl bands. They did not last long before imploding. Joan Jett and Lita Ford moved on and made a success of their solo careers but The Runaways were largely forgotten. This affecting biopic makes no great claims towards the band's importance beyond emphasising that these girls really could rock. Writer/director Floria Sigismondi instead focuses on the dynamics of the group and how these teenagers interact with each other and the demands placed upon them by the volatile Fowley.

Fowley verbally abused and pushed these young women to their limits, at one point hiring teenage boys to throw things at them as they performed so they could get used to playing while being heckled by a hostile crowd. The Runaways undoubtedly owed their success to him, but Fowley was also a destructive force. Cherie Currie was hired by Fowley because she was "Brigitte Bardot in a trailer park." When he organises a revealing photo-shoot for a magazine for his Cherry Bomb, Jett and Ford go nuts and The Runaways begin to tear themselves apart.

'The Runaways' presents the 70's as a grim environment with no real prospects for teenage girls. They are expected to know their place. Currie has a wayward mother (Tatum O Neal) who leaves her children to move abroad with her lover. Joan starts the film ambling around and dreaming of better things. Both want more than the world seems prepared to offer them. The Runaways provides them with a way out but proves to be a bruising learning experience, especially for the fragile Currie who descends into a drugged-out haze.

Photographer and music promo director Sigismondi provides an authentic feel to the band sequences. Jett was apparently insistent on a female director taking charge of 'The Runaways' and Sigismondi brings a clear-eyed view of the bonds and rivalries that develop between these young women. As a result 'The Runaways' works best as a coming of age tale and the ending is genuinely touching.

The performances of the three leads are outstanding. Kristen Stewart is ballsy and likable as the streetwise Joan Jett and proves she has far more range than the 'Twilight' movies allow her. Michael Shannon is mesmerising as the complicated Fowley, at once the driving force behind The Runaways and arguably their destroyer. Dakota Fanning is affecting as the weak Currie, who went from being the Bowie-loving outsider at school, to being the outsider in the band who earns a stinging rebuke from Lita Ford for daring to be lost in reverie to Don McLean's sentimental song 'Vincent.'


•• Eye for film, Amber Wilkinson: Rating 3,5/5
There's a wham, bam, thank you, man, quality to this music biopic that makes it a pleasurable rock rush that's easy on the eye, even if it fails to do much more than skate the surface of the band of its title.

An all-girl band may not sound like anything new these days but back in the 70s when Joan Jett was first trying to make music that wasn't so peachy-keen, the idea of bad-girl rockers more or less began and ended with Suzi Quatro. That Jett was just 15 when she approached rock manager Kim Fowley to try to get a contract, makes it seem all the more incredible that the group the two of them would go on to create would become a worldwide sensation.

Here, though, you can leave most of the band in the trailer with the roadies, since writer/director Flora Sigismondi is really only concerned with the central triumverate of Jett, Shannon and blonde bombshell jailbait Cherie Currie.

We watch as the sleazy but smart Fowley primes their "ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-cherry bombs" to explode and basks in the ensuing mayhem. There is sex of all types, drugs of many varieties and plenty of rock and roll as the band rise to the top and disintegrate - but most of all there is a blistering set of performances at the heart of the film.

Fanning proved she could sing in the critically panned Hounddog and here she gets to show again that her performances are only getting better with age, capturing both the steel and innocence of Currie as her life starts to hit the slippery slope. She is matched step for step by Kristen Stewart, who slips into the Jett role with ease, while towering over the two of them is Michael Shannon, putting in such a finely tuned turn as their dodgy manager that he steals every scene he is in.

Sigismondi's background is in pop videos and it shows. There's a slickness to the action and several scenes have a heady quality, but little attempt is made to really get under the skin of the characters. This is, no doubt, partially due to the source material - Currie's book Neon Angel - which means that she is the only one who is given any sort of fleshed out life or driving forces outside of the band. Still, if Sigismondi isn't interested in psychology, she is big on mood and she captures the trashy feel of life on the road perfectly and celebrates a sense of Seventies sexual liberation and its flipside without turning her central characters into martyrs.


•• Express: Rating 3/5
The band was short-lived but their place in rock history was assured when they showcased the emerging talent of superstar Joan Jett.

Floria Sigismondi’s dramatised account of the band has echoes of Almost Famous as it captures a tangy flavour of the hunger for fame and the bittersweet reality of success in the Seventies rock scene.

Kristen Stewart’s ambitious, moody Jett is the force behind the band put together by eccentric impresario Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon). Dakota Fanning is Cherie Currie, the blushing 15-year-old who could barely finish her big audition but who would become the face of the band with their saucy hit Cherry Bomb.

Her transition to blazing diva and the creative differences with Jett that would seal the band’s fate is at the heart of this fun film but the band’s rise and fall make it feel like every other rock movie you’ve ever seen.


•• The Telegraph, Marc Lee: Rating 4/5
One of the worst insults reserved by sneering pundits for pop music they don’t like is that it’s “manufactured”, and the rise of Simon Cowell and all his works has certainly redrawn the route to the top of the charts. But manufactured groups, brought together with a marketing strategy in mind, have always been around – and they haven’t all been rubbish.

The Monkees were cobbled together in the Sixties as America’s answer to the Beatles and plonked in a zany television sitcom; yet the songs – perky, infectious, intricately-crafted – were actually quite good. As cartoon characters, the Archies were even less “real”, but Sugar, Sugar, their worldwide hit of 1969, is two minutes and 48 seconds of pure pop.

A few years later came a confection rather less wholesome but just as mouth-watering – the Runaways. The first all-girl rock-and-roll band, they were the creation of seedy LA impresario Kim Fowley, who saw the mega-bucks potential in putting five teenagers on stage in tight leather and skimpy underwear and turning the volume up to 11.

Director Floria Sigismondi, in her first full-length feature, recounts the band’s rapid rise and equally rapid descent. She begins the story (which she co-wrote) with uncompromising introductions to the key players. In the opening shot, blood drips on to the pavement as Cherie Currie – destined to be the band’s lead singer – is surprised by the onset of womanhood. We then meet guitarist Joan Jett (Kristen Stewart), struggling with sexual-identity issues, who is suddenly, euphorically liberated by the purchase of a leather jacket.

The blonde Currie and raven-haired Jett are united soon afterwards as Fowley (Michael Shannon) prowls the scuzzy clubs of Hollywood on the lookout for pop’s Next Big Thing. With Joan already under his wing, he approaches Cherie, who is still only 15, and declares: “We are choosing you to be a part of rock-and-roll history.” After completing the line-up, he bullies his protégées through endless, gruelling rehearsals, during which he toughens them up by getting a few local yobs to hurl rubbish – and dog turds – at them as they play.

Inspired by the glam-rock of David Bowie, Suzi Quattro and Gary Glitter and the proto-punk of Iggy Pop, the band rustle up their own sound – raw, primitive, dripping with hormones – and deliver it with a kohl-eyed, seductive snarl. Before long, a record deal is in the bag and they’re off to Japan, where they’re greeted by hordes of screaming fans.

Success, though, is short-lived as the girls – still in their teens – succumb to the usual rock-and-roll clichés of drink, drugs and hedonistic excess; jealousy also infects their little gang as the media (with Fowley’s encouragement) begin to focus exclusively on Cherie.

Fanning captures Currie’s surly “Cherry Bomb” style effectively, particularly when dolled up in the notorious white basque that Currie is remembered for; Stewart is even better as the furiously smouldering Jett, who’s not a million miles distant in character from her Twilight persona, Bella.

Slathered in eyeliner and thick lipstick, Shannon’s hilariously unprincipled Fowley resembles a transvestite Frankenstein’s monster.


•• The Guardian, Peter Bradshaw: Rating 3/5
The time passes; the seasons turn, summer turns to autumn and now Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart are playing rock chicks. And doing it pretty convincingly, what's more – Stewart, at any rate. This is the interestingly low-key, unhappy story of the Runaways, the 70s all-girl band led by blonde singer Cherie Currie (Fanning), with Joan Jett (Stewart) providing lead guitar and rock'n'roll attitude. With her clump of black hair, leather jacket and high-waisted, flat-fronted blue denims, Kirsten Stewart has an eerie resemblance to Jett and when, in one scene, she takes her top off facing away from the camera, her back looks as broad and muscular as a weightlifter's.

In 1975, Jett finds herself hanging out at the English Disco in Los Angeles, where the kids are getting into David Bowie and glam rock and getting off on Do You Wanna Touch Me. Maybe period drama is now the only acceptable context for remembering Gary Glitter. Here Jett meets the bullying, mercurial record producer Kim Fowley, played by Michael Shannon, a bizarre figure who combines dandyish hair and fluttering mannerisms with boorish, bullying heterosexuality. He likes the idea of a girl band, and seeing Cherie hanging out by the bar, recruits her solely on the basis of her moody Bardot chops. Soon he is pitilessly drilling the band and getting local guys to throw beer cans at them, just to toughen them up.

The film, from Italian music video director Floria Sigismondi, interestingly shows how the aggressive girl-band both grew out of the English androgynous rock scene and was a reaction against it. Fowley sometimes affects to be irritated by these limp, fey mascara'd limeys, demanding that the Runaways show some balls. Yet it was the pioneering gender-bending glam-rockers who somehow created the circumstances for an in-your-face female rock band, making an incursion into the macho rock'n'roll world.

Art Linson is the co-producer of this engaging, small-scale film; he is the author of the Hollywood memoir What Just Happened? (later filmed with Robert De Niro) in which he recounts the agony of seeing much-cherished projects getting buried or neglected by the studio: one of these was Sunset Strip (2000), his 1970s rock movie which died a box office death.

Maybe The Runaways is Linson's way of showing that he can make a success of this subject, and I think he has done, with a film which shows how brutal and sexist rock'n'roll is. There are some cliches (drugs on tour, montage showing the band climbing up the charts) and perhaps Fanning looks a little fragile, but the film interestingly and sympathetically shows the human cost to Jett and Currie, who could never quite be sure if they had reached the promised land of stardom or not.


•• Games Radar, Jane Crowther: Rating 3/5
You can keep your Baby, Posh, Sporty and Scary.

Before sanitised girl power there was The Runaways, an all-girl band formed in 1975 by 16-year-old Joan Jett, who played as hard and fast as the guys, opening doors for chicks laying down licks.

At GCSE age, these girls were touring the world, shocking audiences and wearing the hell out of leather before the inevitable sex and drugs got in the way of the rock ‘n’ roll.

It’s a story worth telling, then, and former music video director Floria Sigismondi is keen to sell the she-wolf howl The Runaways represented in an era of testosterone-fuelled rock.

From the opening image of a drop of menstrual blood to lingering shots of ’70s fashion porn that would make a Topshop devotee weep, it’s clear this film’s aimed at girls.

And for the most part it works, thanks to painstaking recreations of hazy disco-era dive bars, faded roller rinks and seedy motels, plus a ballsy performance by Kristen Stewart.

Hunched hungrily over her axe, dirty-sexy and growling her lines, she won’t please the Twi-hards, but it’s a welcome switch-up for anyone suspecting talent does indeed lurk among the vampires.

Michael Shannon also entertains as the manager who sees the bucks to be made from ‘rock bitches’. Meanwhile, Dakota Fanning does her best to move from moppet to maven as lead singer Cherie Currie, but fails to convince fully despite a parade of saucy outfits.

Apart from some evocative scenes of the band performing (with creditable singing from Stewart and Fanning) and being mobbed in Japan, The Runaways is ultimately a familiar song that never quite gets the blood pumping.

Though Jett’s the more interesting character, she plays second fiddle to Cherie (the screenplay’s based on Currie’s memoir), a tease when her story would surely have delivered a more satisfying emotional arc than the tale of one valley girl’s burnout.


•• Movies.com, Dave White: Rating 2,5/5
What's The Deal: It'd be great to say that this movie takes the conventional structure of a rock band biopic (or any episode of VH1's Behind the Music) and upends it to explore the weirdness of the '70s and the indignities of being female in the music industry, the relentless drive of Joan Jett, how you can be a superstar in another country and almost unknown in your own town, and the reasons for the constant fighting in this particular band. But it doesn't do much of that, choosing to merely nod at the more complicated, strange and exciting aspects of the band's story and spend most of its time touching on the usual stuff like broken homes, we're-getting-so-famous-now montages, the passive sexual blossoming of lead singer Cherie Currie and how cocaine is totally bad for you.

Even More Annoying: Lita Ford gets like six lines here and all of them are, "%@*# you!" and "I hate you Cherie!" which must mean that Lita Ford never did anything in this band but get upset at the other girls for... well, the reasons are unclear. But at least the character of Lita Ford gets to speak. The other girls were, according to this film, rock's first mute female band members.

Worth Seeing Anyway For: Stewart and Fanning. They look the part, they get all the notes right, they perform convincingly when it's time to sneer-sing "Cherry Bomb" and they convey the appropriate sense of Kim Fowley's (a really awesome Michael Shannon) best line, "This isn't about Women's Lib. It's about women's libido." In fact, for Joan Jett--who's always been exactly as punk rock sarcastic about the subject of her sexuality with the press as you'd expect her to be--this movie also serves as a kind of official coming out story, but one where being a lesbian is less important than being a badass.

Blink And You'll Miss: Tatum O'Neal, stealing her one scene as Fanning's unpleasantly chirpy and selfish mom. It led me to two thoughts: 1. Where's the Tatum O'Neal biopic, because that movie would have way more drugs in it.
2. How do you drag Kristy McNichol out of hiding to make Little Darlings 2012? Because I'd kind of rather see that than Sex and the City 2.


•• View London, Matthew Turner: Rating 4/5
Enjoyable, stylishly directed rock biopic with terrific performances from Fanning, Stewart and Shannon, though the fact that it's adapted from Currie's book means that only Cherie's story is explored in any depth.

The Good - Dakota Fanning is terrific as Cherie Currie – this is essentially her movie and she delivers an emotionally engaging performance that captures both the aggressive rock chick image and the grown-up-too-soon teenager inside. Her scenes with Keough are particularly good; their relationship is as central to the film as Cherie's relationship with Joan.

Stewart is equally good, capturing Jett's look, spirit and attitude, even if the character is frustratingly under-explored by the script. There's also strong support from Keough and Stella Maeve (as drummer and band co-founder Sandy West) but the film is neatly stolen by the always-excellent Michael Shannon, who gets all the best lines and several amusingly off-the-wall moments, such as having a business call with Joan while having sex.

The Great - Sigismondi has the expected photographer's eye for an arresting image (such as Joan mentally composing songs in a milky-white bath) and her direction is suitably stylish throughout. Similarly, the film ticks all the expected biopic boxes (drugs, arguments, breakdowns, lesbianism) and the concert scenes are well handled, particularly an early heckler-heavy gig and the central set-piece performance of Cherry Bomb.

The main problem is that this is essentially The Runaways: The Cherie Currie Story, meaning that the rest of the band are frustratingly side-lined (poor Alia Shawkat gets just one line, off-camera) and the film ends when Cherie leaves the band, when Jett's story is just as interesting.

Worth seeing? - Despite a few wobbles, The Runaways is a stylish and enjoyable rock biopic with terrific performances from Fanning, Stewart and Shannon. Recommended.


•• Film4, Catherine Bray: The Runaways isn't really the story of the first all-female rock group The Runaways. It's the story of singer Cherie Currie and founding member Joan Jett and their alternately flirtatious/fractious relationship, with the rest of the band barely featuring. And that's just fine - Currie and Jett make an entertaining screen pairing, and actors Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart are more charismatic here than in anything else to date, as they drink, snort, play and perform with giddy abandon. Really, how can you not love Joan Jett weeing on a guitar then slipping over in her own piss? It's Frank Spencer meets Sid Vicious.

The Runaways is also the story of how manager Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon, detestable and therefore perfect) shaped and manipulated the band, subjecting them to a torrent of verbal abuse and ripping them off financially, although this storyline is under-developed, passed over in favour of material that looks and sounds amazing while often not doing much to get under the skin of the characters. That said, director Floria Sigismondi sustains a vein of humour bubbling along underneath the cooler than thou visuals and it helps that the original group sounded decent - we're certainly not in Mariah Carey's Glitter territory.

Ultimately, the Runaways gets a lot right. It focuses on the girls themselves and not on their love interests, the performances are excellent and the live performances feel suitably live, not polished and dubbed. The film's great strength is in showing the sheer fun that the girls have to begin with, before the inevitable problems. This strength in the first half is the undoing of the second - like a rookie roadie put in charge of a wagon load of set-piece pyrotechnics, the film doesn't seem to know what to do with the ball of energy it has summoned up, and instead leaves it to fizzle out. We also battle the sense that we're not being told the whole story; there's definitely darker stuff they're not getting into here, and that feels like the case even if you haven't read Currie's autobiography Neon Angel (on which the film is based), which goes into grittier detail on the issues that tore The Runaways apart.

This is a film that believes that if energy and movement equal excitement, then languor and length can be used to make us feel as if everything is falling inexorably apart, when in fact The Runaways simply drags in the final third. Pacing nitpicks don't stop this being one of the best all-female band movies ever made. But given the competition includes Spice World: The Movie, that's not so hard.

Like the band itself, this film shows loads of early promise before folding in on itself. Great fun while it lasts and less pretentious than many a rock biopic, it would be difficult to make a Spinal Tap-esque send up of The Runaways, and that's refreshing for this genre.


•• The Hollywood Reporter, Kirk Honeycutt: PARK CITY -- "The Runaways" bursts with energy, youth, excess, female empowerment, sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. It's an instant hit worldwide with its cast of young stars, but is it any good? Surprisingly, yes. It just must be met on its own terms.

Although neither a biopic nor a concert film about the famous/infamous 1970s all-female band the Runaways, the film does prefer music and bad behavior to insight, character or substance. First-time director Floria Sigismondi, whose background is in photography and video, surfs along the surface of the '70s rock scene in Los Angeles and, weirdly, Tokyo, to scoop up photo ops, sound bites and glimpses of a hardcore lifestyle. The vigor and pace is electric, and the movie features three showy performances by Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning and Michael Shannon.

Maybe the film falls into the category of Guilty Pleasures. The dark ugliness on display -- the amazing drug abuse and pre-AIDS hedonism -- looks probably too exciting. While the film makes it clear its personalities suffered tremendously for their addictions, it all looks so glam.

The Runaways had their run from 1975-79. The movie so collapses this half-decade run of rock stardom and self-destruction that it feels like the rise and fall of the Runaways happened over a long holiday weekend.

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.

The film steers pretty clear of the more salacious side to the Runaways' reality. It doesn't linger long on the two teens' sexuality, expressed with both sexes and with each other. Instead, Sigismondi rushes back onstage for another performance or plays Runaways music over the film's many montages.

The actor-musicians play and sing reasonably well, or at least fake it reasonably well. Sigismondi's collaborators, especially designer Eugenio Caballero and cinematographer Benoit Debie, make the film's many environments reflect the colors and excesses of the '70s.

In the end, "Runaways" celebrates their music more than anything, even as it tries to give an impression of lives forever on the road where no one -- other than Kim, who refuses to travel -- has a home. The film is not memorable in the sense one recalls it afterward only in flashes and impressions. No scene particularly stands out. And the performances hit emotional and physical highs very early and then stay there.

This might be smart. Probably no one would sit still for a deep-dish biopic about any of the band members. Their product, as Kim sagely puts it, isn't music but sex. So the movie, like the band, is selling flash and glitz and a story about how a group of girls stormed the boys club of rock a little more than a decade after the Beatles.


•• At the movies with Margaret & David, Margaret Pomeranz: Rating 3,5/5
THE RUNAWAYS is a semi-fictional account of the rise and inevitable implosion of the mid 1970's all-girl rock band of that name. Partly adapted from the memoir 'Neon Angel' by the band's lead singer Cherie Currie - Dakota Fanning - the film is a headlong rush into sex, drugs and rock 'n roll by Currie and the girl who was determined to play electric guitar Joan Jett - Kristen Stewart.

Exploiting this group of young women was sleazy manager Kim Fowley - MICHAEL SHANNON - who believed in keeping 'em lean, making 'em keen. His concept for the group, particularly 15 year old lead singer Currie, was provocative to say the least.

This film is the first feature of photographer and music video director Floria Sigismondi and she creates a real sense of the era. But while there is a real dynamism to the early part of the film as the young women begin to establish themselves under the bullying eye of Fowley there is a point where you actually want more access to their characters as the world they so desperately want to be part of becomes a hellhole. Casting DAKOTA FANNING as Currie was a bold stroke and she is eye-opening in the role, she's growing up fast that girl. KRISTEN STEWART is terrific as Joan Jett and the relationship between the two is actually touching. MICHAEL SHANNON once again delivers a powerhouse performance as Fowley.

This cautionary rock 'n roll ride is both entertaining and deflating.

MARGARET: David?

DAVID: I didn't find it deflating. I was surprisingly involved in this, because I didn't think I would have too much access to it. It's not really my kind of music and, look, I went with misgivings, shall I put it that way, although I have a very good friend who dated Joan Jett in high school in America.

MARGARET: Oh, you're joking?

DAVID: I do. I do. And so he told...

MARGARET: How thrilling. Tell us all.

DAVID: Well, I don't know that I should. I don't think there's very much to tell, actually. But so I went into the film with that kind of background knowledge. I found it totally fascinating and I think you're absolutely right that the two - particularly the two central woman, Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart, are amazingly good. I think they're really terrific.

MARGARET: Well, do - I think it's interesting that Kristen Stewart really has to establish herself outside the TWILIGHT series.

DAVID: Yes. Yes, sure.

MARGARET: And I think this was actually a really bold and clever move on her part.

DAVID: I agree.

MARGARET: ...going into a what is basically an independent film and really she underplays everything really, but she does it so well here. I was very impressed by her.



•• Beefy Cow: Rating 2/4
“The Runaways” turns out to be a missed opportunity despite some strong performances and some kick ass rock and roll scenes. This biopic chronicles the quick rise and even quicker fall of The Runaways, an all-girl rock band from the 1970’s which featured Joan Jett and Cherie Curie. Despite the best of intentions, it stumbles over the typical clichés of the biopic to where nothing new is brought to the material or the genre as a whole. Some characters are explored in depth while others are frustratingly left underdeveloped which weakens the dramatic structure of the screenplay overall. It’s a shame because this movie had a lot of potential, but not enough was done to make it stand out from the pack.

The primary focus of “The Runaways” is on Joan and Cherie, and their introductions serve to define them as outcasts who are perfect for rock and roll. Joan is yearning to play electric guitar, but others including her guitar teacher tell her that those kinds of instruments are not for girls let alone women. This serves to fuel her ambition all the more, and there’s a great scene where she defies her guitar instructor by plugging her guitar into one of his amps even as he asks her not to.

With Cherie, her first onstage performance comes when she lip-syncs to a David Bowie song in a talent show taking place at her school. When the audience starts booing her and throwing paper balls in her direction, she responds by defiantly flipping them all off as if their reaction is utterly meaningless. Joan meets up with Cherie when she starts putting together an all-female rock band with the help of drummer Sandy West, and they spot her in a club as a potential lead singer after having been told that the band needs a Bridget Bardot kid of look to it.

Once the group is put together, they remain under the Svengali control of rock producer Kim Fowley, a guy who constantly looks like he is about to break into a drag queen outfit. His methods of getting the band ready for the big time are unorthodox to say the least. Kim gets in their faces, forcing them to see that they are playing in a man’s world where they will be ground out into sawdust if they don’t show how badass an all girl band can be. At one point, he even brings in some teenage boys to throw stuff at them while they play including soda cans and dog poo to prepare for the treatment they will get as an opening act. All of this abusive training gets them up and ready for their first road trip that eventually leads them to landing their first record deal.

From there, “The Runaways” goes through the usual rock biopic motions of the band rising up, playing cool concerts in front of screaming fans, doing drugs, and eventually self-destructing over an exhausting pace of working and resentment over who ends up getting the most attention. Perhaps knowing where it is going steels us up for the inevitable pain we predict we will feel for each of the characters when their success turns out to be fleeting. I feel like I have been down this cinematic road one too many times now, so nothing really surprised about what went on here. In fact, it feels like a short film more than anything else. The history of the Runaways feels very truncated to what it must have been like in real life.

I also wanted to see more of the other band members in addition to Joan and Cherie. Granted, Joan is the biggest star of the bunch and Cherie is not far behind, but what about Sandy West and Lita Ford? Don’t their characters have more to add to this story? Maybe this had something to do with the fact that some of the original band members did not want to give the rights to their life stories over to the producers, but they end up being treated like background players, and it only subtracts from the overall experience of the movie.

The acting for the most part though is very good, and it does make “The Runaways” worthy of a decent rental for some. “Twilight” star Kristen Stewart stars as Joan Jett, and she gets all the singing and guitar moves down in excellent fashion. I heard from somewhere that when the real Joan Jett got a tape of Kristen singing her songs and listened to them, she ended up thinking that a mistake had been made because Joan thought it was her singing. While she isn’t necessarily great in the film, she does acquit herself well and shares a strong chemistry with Dakota Fanning.

As for Dakota Fanning, watching her as Cherie Currie (whose memoir this movie is based on) is really frightening compared to what she has done previously. It still feels like yesterday when I saw her in Steven Spielberg’s “The War of the Worlds” as Tom Cruise’s daughter, carrying her pink suitcase everywhere and constantly crying out for mom. But now she appears to have grown up faster than we ever thought possible, and she gives a performance unlike any we have seen her given before. Watching her go through a wave of self destruction, she is astonishing as she deals with the intimate details of Cherie’s life and it all fueled the person she eventually became. Clearly, Dakota Fanning is in the acting game for the long run.

But the best performance in “The Runaways” belongs to Michael Shannon as record producer Kim Fowley. Ever since his Oscar nominated turn in “Revolutionary Road,” Michael has become one of the most brilliant characters working in film today. We never once catch him trying to soften up Kim Fowley or make him easily likeable. Throughout, Kim comes across as the drill sergeant of rock and roll while yelling in these girls faces, refusing to let them rest or settle with being just “good enough.” Shannon makes Fowley a hard guy to like, but impossible to find boring.

“The Runaways” was written and directed by Floria Sigismondi who is best known as a director of music videos for artists like David Bowie, Bjork, The White Stripes, and Fiona Apple among others. Floria’s video of Marilyn Manson’s “The Beautiful People” in particular has become especially influential to other directors with its use of jittery camerawork and dilating. Throughout the movie, Floria really does capture the look of the crowd at clubs, and the concert sequences are very well staged. The best one of the bunch is for the song “Cherry Bomb” where the band fully realizes its place in rock, and they let it all hang out (figuratively speaking of course).

Still, the movie feels like it is missing a lot of things that could have made it better and help make it stand out among all the other ones that came before it. I’ve seen so many rock biopics over the years, many featuring a meteoric rise followed soon after by a crippling downfall, and the direction it heads in is utterly predictable. It’s a shame because a movie looking at the formation of an all-girl rock band could have been so great and, had it been done right, would have shook things up quite a bit. But many characters are seriously underdeveloped, other histories are not given as much depth, and the Runaways as a band do not appear to have much of a history to generate a feature length motion picture. The acting is good, but so much more could have been brought to the table.

Now if they ever decide to make a movie about Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, I will definitely be in line for that!


•• High Def Digest, Aaron Peck: Rating 3,5/5
Focusing on rock goddesses, Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning) and Joan Jett (Kristen Stewart) 'The Runaways' chronicles the rise and fall of the band that made history as an all girl rock band. The rise to stardom, as it does with so many performers, takes a heavy toll on the girls. Drugs, booze, and sex all become commonplace for girls who are barely old enough to drive. Yet, 'The Runaways' shines through with some solid performances and a story of pubescent, angst-ridden girls run amok.

I first saw 'The Runaways' when it premiered at Sundance earlier this year. The director, Floria Sigismondi, was in attendance and got up at the end to answer a few questions. She commented that the most interesting part of shooting the movie was the fact that Dakota Fanning was the exact same age, at filming time, that Cherie Currie was when 'The Runaways' hit it big. This is both disturbing and fascinating. Fanning seems to be taking on darker, more adult roles before she's actually considered an adult. She writhes around on stage wearing nothing more than a corset and panties, and you can't help but think to yourself, no wonder 'The Runaways' were big.

As the girls rose to fame, much of the attention was paid to Currie as the sexpot, Bridget Bardot lookalike, which caused rifts in the band. Jett, always about the music got angry and resentful that more attention was being paid to the sexy aspects of what they were doing and not to the music. Unfortunately, I'm not up to date on every piece of rock 'n roll history, so I'm going to have to take the movie at its word that this is indeed what finally broke them up. While 'The Runaways' follows the common storyline of a band's meteoric rise to stardom, their subsequent drug use, and fall from grace due to inflated egos, it's interesting to note how young these girls really were. All the drugs and booze that comes along with rock music buries its share of adult rockers, it's hard to imagine the gravity of the situation facing these girls.

It's true that this story only focuses on Jett and Currie, and doesn't really dive into the lives of the other members of the band. In the same Sundance screening we were informed by the director that they were unable to attain the rights to the stories of the other girls in the band.

On the filmmaking front, I feel Sigismondi takes the movie too far into the nether regions of weird camera angles and strange filters just to give it that "indie" feel, when more focus could have been turned to the inner struggles of the leads. When it comes to assembling the soundtrack however, she excels. This film is rockin' with a variety of thumping 70s rock music.

The performances here are great. Stewart – yes she's still playing a brooding teenager – shows some deep emotional range. She's not that softy love stricken girl she plays in the 'Twilight' movies. Her Joan Jett would rip Edward to pieces. She puts on a hard-nosed edge that hasn't been seen in her acting repertoire until now. Fanning plays a coked-out teenage rock star as well as any teenage girl could. It's hard watching her in some of the grittier scenes showing her constant drug use, but she makes it believable. And finally, Michael Shannon, as music producer Kim Fowley, gives one of the most underrated performances of the year. He's one of those guys that either doesn't think before he speaks or just says what everyone else is actually thinking. He's bouncing-off-the-walls insane, but his constant commentary on why people are going to like The Runaways is sad but true. Quoting Kim Fowley "Jail - f****** - bait. Jack - f****** -pot!"


•• AMC: It’s hard to remember a time when women didn’t rule the music scene. Today’s biggest stars seem to be invariably female, and all-girl bands like The Donnas don’t even muster a raised eyebrow.

It wasn’t always this way.

In the early ’70s, as we are reminded early in The Runaways, girls didn’t play electric guitar. Sure, they were in bands or performed solo — think The Carpenters, Joni Mitchell, etc. — but a bunch of women playing their own instruments and thrashing on stage like banshees? That just didn’t happen.

It’s 1975. Enter teen Joan Jett (a grunged-out Kristen Stewart), who wants nothing more than to rock, dude. As the movie dutifully informs us, she lurks in seedy L.A. bars begging to be discovered… and basically, she abruptly is, by producer Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon, perfectly cast), who gives her a shot, hooks her up with drummer Sandy West (Stella Maeve), and starts his Runaways rehearsing in an abandoned trailer out in the woods — where mysteriously there is plenty of electricity for the amps.

But Fowley wants a sexier frontwoman than Jett, and he returns to troll the clubs to find her. He does: Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning — yes, Dakota Fanning), whose blonde feathered hair is more important than her goody-goody suburban upbringing and lack of any real singing talent. It’s all about the attitude, right?

History and common sense will inform you of what happens next: The Runaways tour roller rinks and school dances in the States, then zip off to Japan where they are mobbed, Beatles-style, by insane, uniformed schoolgirls. But the road wears you down, of course, and that means drugs, infighting, and — so it happens — lots of lesbian sex.

The Runaways isn’t a bad movie, but writer/director Floria Sigismondi’s inexperience is obvious, and she simply has no good handle on structuring the film. Once the band is formed, the movie falls into a carousel of déjà vu: The band plays, the bandmates do a bunch of drugs, people fight (or screw)… repeat. The vignettes are disjointed and soon become repetitious to the point of distraction. The film feels extremely long, though it runs a standard 100 minutes.

Like most people, I was seriously worried about whether Fanning or Stewart had the chops for these roles, but both acquit themselves admirably. Stewart is admittedly better. Fanning is a bit self-conscious in a role that has her flashing her crotch repeatedly, but she’s certainly come a long way since The Cat in the Hat, and I have high hopes for her transition to “grown-up” acting.

I’m still on the fence about whether the importance of The Runaways is overplayed in the film. One can argue that The Slits were a bigger influence, since they toured with The Clash, and it really wasn’t until Joan Jett started her second band (with The Blackhearts) and The Go-Go’s arrived that chick rock seriously took off.

Alas, thinking about such things is more interesting than the actual story The Runaways has to tell, which is shopworn and all too familiar. It’s just tragic that in a film about a pioneering all-girl rock band, Michael Shannon’s sex grunts are the most memorable component.


•• DVD Verdict, Jennifer Malkowski: Cherie: The Runaways, based on Cherie Currie's memoir (Neon Angel) and produced by Joan Jett, tells the story of the two women's coming of age as the frontwomen for the all-girl punk rock band, The Runaways. Although they've acted together before in the Twilight saga, real-life buddies Kristen Stewart (Jett) and Dakota Fanning (Currie) here turn in some impressive performances as the band's "rock and roll heart" and its "sex kitten," respectively. Theirs is the central relationship, not just of the band, but also of the film, and it is this relationship that sets The Runaways apart from other entries in the musical biopic genre. While viewers of this genre might expect to see a rivalry between Joan, the band's founder and songwriter, and Cherie, its lead singer, The Runaways confounds this expectation and instead gives us the story of two friends (sometimes friends-with-benefits!). Fans of The Runaways' songs might wish for the music to take center stage, but in my mind, the on-screen chemistry between Stewart and Fanning more than makes up for it.

The Runaways is a film that, in many ways, follows the narrative conventions of the rise-and-fall-of-a-musical-group genre (such as That Thing You Do, What's Love Got to Do with It, and Almost Famous). Starting with a portrait of the artist(s) as scrappy unknowns, we witness the exhilaration of their early successes, the negative influences of sex, drugs, and rock and roll fame on both the artists' personal lives and their music, and the eventual breakdown of the artists' formative creative partnerships. Since the latter two films are, like The Runaways, based on the subjects' real-life experiences, I suspect that this is simply a very common story, rather than a case of lazy writing.

While many of its plot points are more than a little familiar, The Runaways manages to make them feel fresh, partly due to the novelty of showing an all-girl band trying to make it in the tough, male-dominated rock scene. Away from home, the band sleeps in dirty motel rooms, experiments with drugs, and contends with misogynistic hecklers. After one such incident, in which their sound check is cut short by a male group that tells them to go home (amusingly revealed in the commentary track to be the band Rush), Joan retaliates by peeing on their guitars. When the band starts to resent Cherie's role as the (sexy) face of the Runaways, Joan makes clear that she's not interested in power, but musical legitimacy:

Joan: "This is all they're ever going to say about us. Do you think they're ever going to take us seriously?"
Cherie: "It's for publicity, it helps everybody."
Joan: "What were you thinking? Publicize the music, not your crotch."

What is special about this particular story is that, at the same time as the band is maturing, so are its members. The film's coming-of-age themes are telegraphed during its very first, very graphic shot: blood dripping down Cherie's leg and onto the pavement as she gets her first period. In the film, Fowley, listening to the Runaways perform, declares: "That's the sound of hormones raging." As the girls grow increasingly confident on stage, learning to growl and scream, they also grow into their sexuality. Joan teaches Sandy to masturbate, suggesting she think about Farrah Fawcett, and Cherie starts sleeping with the band's road manager. Some of the sexiest moments, however, come from the chemistry between Stewart and Fanning.

Stewart plays Joan as a girl who's both protective of Cherie and also a little bit in love with her. For me, one of the strongest aspects of the film was its matter-of-fact treatment of Joan's queerness: it is not shy about showing Joan making out with both boys and girls—more girls, though, if you're counting—but neither does it feel the need to define her sexuality with a label. And, while Cherie was billed as the sex kitten of the group, Stewart's portrayal of Joan felt far sexier to me (and less uncomfortable, since Fanning was only 15 when she shot this film!). As Joan, Stewart channels her trademark awkward mannerisms and apparent standoffishness into a sort of boyish cool—slouching, swearing, and looking most comfortable when she has a guitar in her capable hands—that is both tough and incredibly hot.

Of course, a film that deals with girls in their mid-teens exploring their sexuality could easily feel exploitative, a point that one of the men working on the film makes while being interviewed for one of the extras, "Plugged In: Making the Film." Speaking about the writer-director, Floria Sigismondi, he says, "Floria's great. I think part of the reason she can make this movie is that she's a woman. If you and I tried to make this thing, we'd be perverts. They'd lock us up and throw away the key."

While Sigismondi herself does a commendable job, for the most part, of showing the girls' sexuality without exploiting it, the same could hardly be said for those managing The Runaways. Fowley, upon meeting Cherie, makes it clear that he's picked her for her looks, not her talent. After he learns that she is fifteen, he walks off, saying to himself, "Jail-fucking-bait! Jack-fucking-pot!" Fowley stresses to the girls that "this isn't about women's lib; this is about women's libido." Later on, Cherie takes Fowley's instruction to "think with your cock" seriously and assembles a corset and garter belt ensemble to wear onstage; Joan, who's disturbed by Cherie's willingness to objectify herself, comments, "You're basically ready for the peep show circuit. All you need's a porn name." The film sets up the dichotomy between its two leads nicely, showing Joan as the one with a dream and the drive to pursue it, while Cherie seems always a little bit lost, a little too ready to please others and let someone else take the lead. When Joan upbraids Cherie for doing a photo shoot without the rest of the band, Cherie defends herself, saying, "Kim just sent them over, they showed up at my house. What was I supposed to say?" She looks genuinely surprised when Joan answers, "You could say no." When Cherie finally learns that lesson, it means the end of The Runaways. Standing up to Fowley at last, as he insists that she obey him and get in the recording booth, Cherie tells him, "No."

Although The Runaways was one of the first successful all-girl bands, this isn't just a story about young girls trying to get ahead in a male-dominated field. As this gritty little film makes clear, through both Stewart's compelling performance and the undeniable power of The Runaways' songs on the soundtrack, the band was important not only for women, but also for rock and roll. The movie doesn't spend an excessive amount of time on the music, instead preferring to put it in the background or to intersperse performances with dialogue. For those who do not enjoy watching concert movies, this will be a definite plus for The Runaways. For those who do, there is still a lot to love.


•• Miss Flick Chick: Italian-born writer-director Floria Sigismondi's film about the short-lived, all-girl rock band The Runaways (and they really were girls, not women), sacrifices the fascinating detit ails in the service of tidy dramatic structure. But captures a genuine sense of what the 1970s were like — the real '70s, not the wacky, sitcom '70s of That '70s Show. Ingrained sexism coexisting uneasily with newfound sexual freedom; too-tight, too-shiny clothes — billowing caftans, clingy knits, sansabelt pants, jumpsuits, platform shoes, dingy clubs; retro prints and brown, brown, brown — and a pervasive feeling that the good times were over and all that lay ahead was diminished expectations.

Southern California, 1975: Restless teenager Joan Jett (Stewart) worships Suzi Quatro and dreams of becoming a straight-up, balls-out guitar god, despite the prevailing wisdom that girls can’t play the electric guitar. Sandy West (Maeve), hooked on drums from age nine, is on the prowl for other female musicians who want to rock. Hollywood-bred jack-of-all-trades Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon), who at 33 could boast a solid 15 years of music-business experience, thinks a gaggle of hard-rocking jailbait chicks could be the next lucrative thing and introduces them. When West and Jett click, he recruits Bowie-worshiping singer Cherie Currie (Fanning), spawn of an alcoholic and a disillusioned actress (O'Neal) whose Hollywood dreams curdled after 10 years of B-movie bit parts; volatile guitarist Lita Ford (Taylor-Compton) and bass player Robin Robins (Shawkat, playing a composite of the bassists the band went through in four years). Fowley dubs them The Runaways and puts his fledgling proteges through rock 'n' roll boot camp. He hires local kids to pelt them with crap (literally) — the girls have to learn how to deal with rowdy crowds — encourages them with his own special brand of cheerleading ("You bitches are gonna be bigger than the fucking Beatles!"), and sends them out on a low-rent, make-or-break tour. The rest is straight from the Behind the Music playbook: Intoxicating success, drug- and booze-fueled squabbles and the inevitable flameout.

First, the good news: Twilight's sullen Stewart, former child-star Fanning and one-time Oscar-nominee Shannon are terrific; their performances are 100% snark-free. Both Fanning and Stewart nail the particular desperation born of living on the wrong side of a shatterproof wall that separates wealth, glamour and celebrity from parched despair, and they can sing. Jett, one of the film's executive producers, claims she mistook a tape of Stewart for one of herself.

The bad news is that The Runaways consistently sacrifices the unique and messy to the sleekly formulaic; the film's look is as grungy and deglamorized as the narrative is neat and familiar. And that's a shame, because the marvel of The Runaways is that they transcended their pre-fab (albeit scruffy) origins and forged a genuine rock 'n' roll identity.