A pretty good film.
Based on Cherie Currie’s memoir ‘Neon Angel’, this is less a film about The Runaways and more about the relationship between Currie and Joan Jett both of whom were very loose cannons. Currie even commented after the film’s release that it was watered down version of what actually happened.
The film charts the formation of the band in 1975 and their relationship with the repulsive manager and producer Kim Fowley, brilliantly played by Michael Shannon. The band went through a few line-up changes on the bass guitar and the film does mention Lita Ford but Jackie Foxx did not want anything to do with it. ‘The Runaways’ doesn’t focus on the band’s music but more about Currie’s descent into drug abuse hell and the band’s success in Japan while in their home country they were more of a cult outfit. The film’s tagline is ‘The Story Of The Most Influential Band You’ve Never Heard Of’. It could certainly be argued that while they continue to inspire fans and musicians there are other relatively obscure bands that are far more influential. The story ends when Currie walked out in 1977 after three albums (‘The Runaways’, ‘Queens Of Noise’ and ‘Live In Japan’) though it doesn’t reference that Jett and drummer Sandy West carried on the band until 1979 with bassist Vicki Blue and Blue’s replacement Laurie McAllister. The film shows just how amateurish they actually were as musicians; they were never great players but they had an attitude that was aggressive yet sexy. They could be both feminine and masculine and they had a couple of catchy songs; obviously we all know ‘Cherry Bomb’.
Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart are excellent as Currie and Jett though they don’t seem like especially nice people even by rock stars’ standards. Jett especially comes across as an almost loathsome person with very little talent except a punk attitude and good looks. To Currie’s credit she was only a teenager and was basically led astray until it all became too much. Stella Maeve plays the late Sandy West. The film ends on a high note, at least for Jett who formed Joan Jett And The Blackhearts and then had mega success with ‘I Love Rock ’N’ Roll’ while Currie ended up in a crummy day job. There’s obviously more to the story but the film is only 106 minutes and is more about 1970s Hollywood rock ’n’ roll hedonism than music.
I’m not a huge fan of the band but this is a pretty good film. I would have personally preferred more detail about the music; the film does skim the surface and more focus on the rest of the band would have made it a more rounded picture. It’s still better than the average rock biopic, however.