March 21, 2010
Admittedly, I like a good biopic - sure, some signposts are telegraphed, there are the inevitable point-of-no-return moments, but all in all, a good biopic should be able to convince you that the details aren't what matter, it's the arc.
Sadly, The Runaways is a movie that - at various levels - is dishonest, and doesn't quite feel right. In fact, back in the early days of the blog, I wrote about a much better movie that I'll reference later.
It's no wonder it was the darling of Sundance - there are various artful shots (people coming and going in focus, unusual angles), but these disguise the fact that, at its heart, The Runaways attempts to make more out of the truth, but not very creatively. (Their idea of a name for the amalgamation of the band's bass players? "Robin Robins".) In short, the band deserved a much better movie about them - and they got it a few years earlier.
It's not that there aren't any good performances - Michael Shannon hits the right note as a creepy, slightly erratic Kim Fowley - but acting that should have hit the right notes doesn't. Kristen Stewart's Joan Jett lacks the rocker's singular drive, and Dakota Fanning as Cherie Curie? I'll avoid the obvious the Martians should have gotten her and just say this - she plays the character slightly childish, even down to the vocals. Even the story beats are obligatory - rather than describe anything in honest terms, the director seems to go through the motions - hey, it's the 1970s! There are drugs! Crappy gigs! Inter-band friction! (In fact, the other band members are given obligatory scenes...except for the bass player. Of course, nobody likes the bass player. Not even other bass players).
(I will say this - despite very few lines, Scout Taylor-Compton rules at Lita Ford. In a role that seemed to be written one way, hers is probably the most honest, especially in a key scene. What could have been the obligatory "troublemaker" role she gives a little extra class.)
But anyway, if you want to see a really good movie about the Runaways - and one that is less Curie/Jett/Fowley centric - please consider renting or Netflixing Edgeplay - A Film About The Runaways. Truth be told, I blogged about ityears ago, and the director sent me a complimentary e-mail which I promptly lost. Everyone who was involved with the band (with the notable exception of Joan Jett) participated, and it's a much more rounded, down-to-earth film.
As far as The Runaways, it's a very disappointing mash-up where filmmaking styles, acting efforts, and script don't come together. It's ironic that Edgeplay - a smaller, more intimate documentary made by a former bass player for the band - reveals the higher-budged, more recent "indie" effort to be a more typical by-the-numbers-without-any-soul effort.
The band deserved a great piece of mainstream work, and The Runaways...isn't it.