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film review: the runaways

The Runaways is a rock’n’roll romp; a touching tale of the fucked-up family you create for yourself; and a brilliant biopic.

The film follows the beginnings of band The Runaways.  Joan Jett (Kristen Stewart, Twilight) – with a chip on her shoulder of boulder-proportions – just wants to rock like the boys, whether or not she’s allowed to.  When she comes into contact with the glam-rock band manager Kim Fowley (an appropriately unpalatable Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road, Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead), and sells him her idea of an all-girl rock band, he decides to help her sell the idea to the world.  The two rock stars/marketers discover jailbait sex kitten Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning, I Am Sam), and the band is born.  We see the band’s formation; rise to fame, and inevitable fall – with the necessary back-story of obligatory family drama and friendship fallouts.  All this is enhanced by a fun punk-feminist aesthetic and electric soundtrack.

Although Kristen Stewart has hardly done herself any favours by twitching her way through the Twilight franchise, in an attempt to convince the cinema-going public that she is – you know – actually able to act, in The Runaways she proves the talent that she promised in films like Panic Room and Speak.  Disparately, Dakota Fanning has already established herself as an acting force, but this reviewer has always found her altogether too clean-cut.  Luckily, Fanning is able to bring an uncomfortable sex appeal to the role, and act out a believable mental meltdown.

This film is a portrayal of girls teetering on the edge of – if not growing up – growing into something larger than life.  They walk a fine line between being able to embrace their sexuality, and sexual exploitation; which situations the ongoing tension between the people they are, the people they are turning into, and the people they want to be.  The Runaways does a great job of highlighting these conflicts, along with the eternal conflict of the rock’n’roll industry: a monkey-making marketing machine intent on selling antithesis of these things – rebellion.

The Runaways is not an in-depth or strictly accurate biopic (despite being based on Cherie Currie’s autobiography) but it is a firecracker of a film, and will definitely prompt a revival in appreciation of The Runaways’ music – and hopefully also some feminist debate.

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