Right off the bat, I’m prepared to go on record saying I knew almost nothing about The Runaways before settling down to watch the film.
Other than knowing Joan Jett and Cherie Currie were the leaders of what was supposedly the first all female rock group in the 70s, I wouldn’t know anymore than the next guy. The rise and fall happened long before my time.
Joan Jett and The Blackhearts? I could list a handful of songs. But The Runaways? Not a chance. But I digress. Rather than give a film review on a rock website, it feels more appropriate to pose questions and give a perspective from the noughties or tensies (whatever decade this is being labelled as!).
The Runaways greatest success is the attention to detail, from Jett’s obsession with Suzie Quatro to the sexual ambiguity of not only the band members but the decade itself. It’s easy to forget, after all, that this was a time before sexism lead to court cases and was generally accepted.
From an outsider’s point of view the backstory was fascinating and never felt too farfetched – never likely to happen when one Miss Joan Jett was producing her own life’s movie. However, the film intriguingly focuses in on the decline of tearaway child Currie and her struggle to cope with the sex, drugs and rock n roll lifestyle.
Dakota Fanning’s astonishing portrayal of the sexually exploited Currie, along with Twilight star Kristen Stewart’s edgy Jett, dovetail perfectly. There seemed to be one nagging question lingering in my head throughout, where are The Runaways of today?
Sure they were a one time deal but the 80s had Heart, whereas contemporary ‘rock’ audiences have to label Avril Lavigne and Hayley Williams as the closest to female rockstars. Both of which have all male backing bands.
Where are the female drummers? The guitar shredders? The bassists? There’s some unbelievable female fronted bands out there but I for one would love to see a return for all female rock bands. Okay it’s harder now as music has changed, drug use is unacceptable and exploiting a minor is ridiculous. But it can be done!
Returning back to the movie the show is almost stolen from the band by the eccentric Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon) who takes a little too much credit. For my liking, not enough time is spent with other members of the band, with very limited screen time and even fewer lines. Lita Ford, in particular, should have been more prominent as the only other member other than Jett to experience a decent solo career. Ford is still releasing new material today and her latest release Wicked Wonderland is outstanding.
But as a whole the movie will garnish exactly what it set out to achieve, launching the music of the band and its members to a new generation. As I have previously mentioned, how can this be a bad thing? And the soundtrack has some phenomenal tracks and is well worth checking out (see below).
One last thought though. With the recent influx of music biography style movies, who in rock’s long history could be next? AC/DC? Lynyrd Skynyrd? Guns N Roses? With such fascinating back-stories of tragedies, betrayals and everything in between, are rock bands the future of Hollywood?
The Runaways – Music From And Inspired By The Motion Picture (Atlantic)
Soundtracks can be a very peculiar beast indeed. Soundtracks to movies focusing on music even more so. But this varied and energetic compilation perfectly reflects a film made by rock music loves for rock music lovers.
There’s not a dud track in sight. Whether you’re interested in the inspiration for Jett and her fellow Runaways (Suzi Quatro’s The Wild One and Bowie’s Rebel Rebel clearly had a huge bearing on this edgy band) or want to hear the band itself (Hollywood and I Wanna Be Where The Boys Are) this tells an engaging story without the pictures.
Dakota Fanning proves herself a more than decent rock singer and what price a move towards some serious music projects very soon? Mixing originals with tracks recorded for the soundtrack keeps things moving at a breakneck pace and you can’t afford to fast forward for fear of missing out on a hidden gem.
As a rule soundtracks should be avoided at all costs. This is the exception to the rule and a riotous rock record in its own right.
rushonrock rated: 8/10 Runaways Success
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