More an idea than a movie. 

Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning

Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning

Truth be told, the '70s teen-girl rock group the Runaways were a lot better story than they were a band. Perhaps appropriately, the new biopic on the band is a nice idea too shoddily executed.

Assembled by promoter/huckster Kim Fowley, the Runaways introduced rocker Joan Jett, who would go on to bigger and much better things, and glam singer Cherie Currie, who would not. Flanked, in part, by lead guitarist and future hair-metal hitmaker Lita Ford, the short-lived, controversial band's output yielded one well-conceived if under-executed semi-classic single ("Cherry Bomb"), a few justly forgotten albums, and the sardonic and triumphal appellation "big in Japan."

None of this suggests there isn't a good movie to be made about the group. The Runaways does a nice job in the casting department: Former child-star Dakota Fanning is persuasive and all but unrecognizable as Currie, a middle-class girl who would rather emulate David Bowie than join her sister working behind the counter at the local Pup-n-Fries. Kristen Stewart is not as tough as the Jett that would later emerge, but her awkwardness and uncertainty as a rocker-in-training is endearing and presumably accurate given that Jett is an executive producer here. The rest of the bandmates (especially Stella Maeve as sunny drummer Sandy West) are engaging if underused. And as Fowley, Michael Shannon gives a typically committed performance that allows us to see how ambitious teens could be swayed by Fowley but without the cracks in his facade.

The execution, however, by music-video-schooled director Floria Sigismondi, lacks verve. There are moments here, such as Jett learning to handle rowdy crowds by batting tossed beer cans back at them with the neck of her guitar, mid-riff. But these moments are too few. The Runaways is not wrong about the band's importance as probably the first significant all-girl rock band, setting the stage from which innumerable bands (Kleenex, Bikini Kill, L7, Sleater-Kinney, etc.) would make more lasting music. But the film is a little ham-handed following this trail, blasting an MC5 cover of "It's a Man's World" while following Jett home from guitar practice, for instance.

And The Runaways seems intent on making a case for the band that just isn't there, going so far as to plaster the screen with hard-sell magazine and newspaper headlines ("More Than Horny Hype"). But the film undercuts itself when the final four songs heard or referenced, including over the closing credits, are not Runaways recordings but instead Jett solo.

The Runaways
Rated R · 105 min. · 2010
Official Site:
Director: Floria Sigismondi
Writer: Floria Sigismondi
Producer: Art Linson, John Linson and William Pohlad
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning, Michael Shannon, Alia Shawkat, Scout Taylor-Compton, Tatum O'Neal, Johnny Lewis, Brett Cullen and Stella Maeve


Now Playing

The Runaways is not showing in any theaters in the area.


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

    • Fifty Shades Freed

      Feature length commercial for luxury goods or chilling glimpse into the post-human future?
    • Red Sparrow

      Jennifer Lawrence ’s spy thriller is 2018’s second-best film named for a color and an animal.
    • Annihilation

      Director Alex Garland sends Natalie Portman deep into the unknown


We Saw You

Spirit Fest, Butcher's Dinner

News Blog

Supreme Court Sets Two More Execution Dates

News Blog

$28M Raleigh Town Center to Break Ground

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

Seven Days In Entebbe

Hungry Memphis

Feast on the Farm with David Krog

News Blog

Commission to End Poverty in Memphis Forms

Politics Beat Blog

On Doing No Harm


More by Chris Herrington

  • Last Words

    In "Enough Said," James Gandolfini makes his last lead film role his best.
    • Sep 26, 2013
  • Masters of Sound

    New albums from two of Memphis’ most distinctive stylists.
    • Sep 19, 2013
  • Hayes Carll at the Hi-Tone

    • Sep 19, 2013
  • More »

Readers also liked…

© 1996-2018

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation