Retrospective Review: The Runaways

Year: 2010
Run Time: 146 minutes
Director: Floria Sigismondi
Writer: Floria Sigismondi 
Stars: Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning, Michael Shannon

By Kristy Strouse

It’s been ten years since we saw “Twilight” (2008) cast-mates Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning graze the screen in the music biopic “The Runaways.” While the Floria Sigismondi written/directed film has its fair share of follies, by the end it’s worthy of a collective fist to the air, celebrating – at the very least- the spotlight on these talented women and the impact they had on the rock and roll world.

At a time when bands entirely made up of women weren’t a prevalent nor seemingly lucrative notion, The Runaways was formed, primarily because of the persistent ambition of Joan Jett (Stewart) and her collaboration with Kim Fowley (played with an on-spot eccentricity here by Michael Shannon). Soon they bring in Cherie Currie (Fanning) to be the lead singer, along with Sandy West (Stella Maeve), Lita Ford (Scout Taylor-Compton) and Robin (Alia Shawkat). Then we’ve got the pop-punk legendary group: The Runaways.

the runaways
Dakota Fanning, Alia Shawkat, and Kristen Stewart in The Runaways (2010)

“Dakota Fanning is by far the stand out in “The Runaways”. She’s alluring as Cherry, provocative and absorbed in the spotlight. I think that the film shows how damaging this can be to someone as young and innocent as her.”

Can girls rock? Absolutely (as if this is a legitimate question) however here, in this setting, it is considered. The movie delivers us a quick assembly, rapid development, and an even shockingly faster boost to fame. It isn’t an unknown story, despite being a real one, and it’s commonly seen with films like this: the fast tracks to being a celebrity aren’t always happy ones.

Floria creates a film that is radiating with style, full of grungy rock glam. She wrote the screenplay, based on Cherie Currie’s book, and it’s got the look of a long night of party and glitz, as well as the exhausted morning after when things aren’t as bright and the world’s weight is suddenly felt. The colours and camera work feel like you’re in the whirlwind alongside these girls; a drug and sex-fueled ride through success. That works as both an ignition and a deflector, as their young rise to success hits Sherry hard. These are young girls, after all, exploited- yes, and how these two main characters deal with it, is very different.

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Dakota Fanning in The Runaways (2010)

“There are some wonderful emotional developments between these young women, forming bonds off stage, before kicking ass on. They are thrust into unknown territory while navigating their own sexuality and identities, and that’s the real heart of “The Runaways.”

Dakota Fanning is by far the stand out in “The Runaways”. She’s alluring as Cherry, provocative and absorbed in the spotlight. I think that the film shows how damaging this can be to someone as young and innocent as her, someone desperate for escape and attention, and how it can swallow you up. For, Joan, it’s different, her passion for music and refusal to not be heard is the strongest connection to the character that we get. I wanted to love Kristen Stewart as Joan more than I did. There’s an electricity with Joan that Stewart doesn’t quite nail, but that’s not to say she doesn’t try. She manages the mystique and definitely looks the part, but there’s not the same level as performance as there is with Fanning.

run 1
Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart in The Runaways (2010)

The movie flounders in its length and some of its later scenes. The third act isn’t the strongest, and the earlier build before the fall is where the movie really shines. There are some wonderful emotional developments between these young women, forming bonds off stage, before kicking ass on. They are thrust into unknown territory while navigating their own sexuality and identities, and that’s the real heart of “The Runaways.” It isn’t delicate, and the high voltage trail of excess is nothing if not entertaining. It isn’t perfect, but it is sure to leave an impression. After all, the band was formed in the mid-1970s and the film is ten years old now, yet here we are. These girls, and the actresses that embody them, are worth talking about.

3 stars

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