Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Everyone knows Joan Jett but a lot of Gen-Xers and beyond don’t know too much about Cherie Currie. I grew up with Bad Reputation as a personal mantra. I Love Rock and Roll was an anthem until Britney Spears ruined it for everyone.
My generation only knew Joan Jett as the rock goddess, leader of the Blackhearts and oh yeah, didn’t she used to be in that cool little band called The Runaways? Little did we know that back then, an incendiary, hedonistic little vixen named Cherie Currie was the star of the show.
Cherie’s memoirs entitled Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway is the basis of this musical biopic revolving around the tenuous relationship between Currie (Dakota Fanning) and Jett (Kristen Stewart) and you guessed it - the sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll heyday of the most influential teenaged all-girl rock band in existence.
Opening with a shot of menstrual blood dripping onto pavement, director Floria Sigismondi immediately establishes what The Runaways is all about, musically and culturally. Like Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon), the Runaways’ uncouth but undeniably savvy manager explains, "Rock and roll is a blood sport." This is the introduction of female empowerment into that hitherto male-dominated blood sport.
Fowley may come across as a bawdy snake oil salesman but the music impresario really is perpetually on the nose when looking out for the next big thing. A young Jett approaches Fowley outside a nightclub and proposes the idea of an all-girl band. Ever the opportunist, Fowley latches onto the concept and doesn’t let go.
Cherie Currie was the last piece of the Runaways puzzle but turned out to be the most important. After an unimpressive audition, the band takes a leap of faith and brings her onboard anyway. Currie had the look and the presence and, as Malcolm McLaren similarly discovered with Sid Vicious, that can get you a long way.
Don’t expect an in-depth, soul-searching Walk The Line type biopic. The Runaways is quick, abrupt and filthily fun, just like one of their songs. The story is fairly by-the-numbers. The struggle for fame and respect, the sudden meteoric rise, the hard partying with booze and drugs, the downfall brought about by rock star excess - you’ve seen it all before.
This cherry bomb had a short fuse but what made it sweetly memorable aren’t the predictable circumstances, it’s the amazing performances. Special mention has to be made for Dakota Fanning. The girl’s grown up but not so much that she can’t pull off the jailbait Lolita-ness of Currie with aplomb. Michael Shannon is also spectacularly theatrical, hamming it up as the prurient polysexual Fowley.
Currie’s rise and fall with The Runaways is merely an intriguing first chapter in the larger Joan Jett story to many people, but it’s definitely a boisterously stimulating one at least.
About Hidzir Junaini
Hidzir Junaini, aka inSing.com's Movie Lover, is 23-years-old and a wealthy playboy billionaire by day and a caped crusader by night. Only one of those is true. He’s actually a freelance writer, blogger, full-time film buff and some-time socially awkward nerd. He also writes about music, restaurants and nightlife for Metrowize Asia.
Hidzir is the winner of the inaugural inSing Movie Lover contest that garnered over 1,000 participants. The Movie Lover contest is a search for a candidate who possesses outstanding passion for movies and a talent for writing engaging movie reviews.