The story of one of the biggest all-female rock bands is depicted in this biopic from music video director Floria Sigismondi.
Cherie Currie is a 15-year old who lives in Los Angeles and she dreams of rock stardom. Joan Jett is an aspiring guitar player who also dreams of rock stardom. When Joan meets Kim Fowley, a major music producer, he gets Joan a connection with aspiring drummer Sandy West. Joan comes up with the idea of forming an all-female rock band and Fowley loves the idea. Along with guitarist Lita Ford and bassist Robin Robins, Fowley meets Cherie at a local club and auditions her to be the band’s lead singer.
Despite the obstacles, the group gels and becomes the Runaways. Their signature song, “Cherry Bomb”, causes to band to eventually gain a following, especially in Japan. However, with success comes a spiral that is ready to head downwards for this group as Cherie’s popularity causes a bit of controversy, as well as drug addiction and more, leading Cherie to make a decision that will change the outcome of the band as a collective.
Based on the true story, written in book form from lead singer Cherie Currie, music video director Floria Sigismondi makes her film debut with the story of the all-female rock band who strutted their stuff in the mid-70s. The film goes from their formation to superstardom in both the U.S. and Japan to their inevitable fall from grace. With most biopics, there are a few obvious changes, but the point of the story is there and it helps that a stellar cast drives the film.
Dakota Fanning, by this time an outstanding former child star, gets to “grow up” in the role of Currie, with much of the focus being on her life on and off stage. Currie attempts to become innocent, but dealing with her personal life at home leads her into temptation not so much by becoming the lead singer of the band, but the “perks” that go with the fame. As for Kristen Stewart, while people find her Twilight Saga character kind of bland, she redeems herself in the role of Joan Jett, the guitarist/second vocalist of the band who would become a music legend in her own right. She may start out as kind of what you would expect from Stewart, but she then unleashes in a good way. The duo of Stewart and Fanning even sand the songs themselves instead of resorting to lip-synching, which is a good thing.
The other highlight of the film is Michael Shannon as the band’s manager, Kim Fowley. Shannon goes no holds barred in the role, unleashing tirade after tirade when it comes to the band’s business. When they go along with him, it’s magic, but if they don’t, he becomes insane with both anger and a bit of comic wit at the same time. Scout Taylor-Compton makes the most of her role as another future music legend, the 80’s Queen of Heavy Metal, Lita Ford, who started as the lead guitarist of the band, while Alia Shawkat is more a background player in bassist Robin Robins, who is based on the original bassist Jackie Fox (who refuses to give her story to the film) and replacement Vickie Blue, who would later become a documentary filmmaker who made a film about the band in 2004, called Edgeplay.
The Runaways takes the story of one of best all-female rock bands in history, tweaks some details, but makes it statement overall thanks to the excellent performances by Dakota Fanning, Kristen Stewart, and Michael Shannon.
WFG RATING: A
Apparition presents a River Road Entertainment/Linson Entertainment production in association with Blackheart Films. Director: Floria Sigismondi. Producers: Art Linson, John Linson, and Bill Pohlad. Writer: Floria Sigismondi; based on the novel “Neon Angel” by Cherie Currie. Cinematography: Benoît Debie. Editing: Richard Chew.
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning, Michael Shannon, Scout Taylor-Compton, Alia Shawkat, Riley Keough, Tatum O’Neal, Brett Cullen, Johnny Lewis, Hannah Marks.