Movie Review: The Runaways

“Hello Daddy, Hello Mom, Ima chchchchchchch… CHERRY BOMB!

It seems that when this song came out in the 70’s, it was a direct punch in the face letting parents know that these girls were all grown up and were making their own decisions. It could be possible that Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart taking these roles was their version of “Cherry Bomb” to the film industry. Before even seeing the film and hearing that Cherie was going to be portrayed by Dakota Fanning, my jaw dropped, as anyone who was/is a fan of The Runaways would know, she was famous for performing on stage in a corset.

After seeing the film, I feel a little differently about the casting, I loved it. Dakota Fanning has really shown her range as a young actress and this role boosts her into adulthood, never mind that she’s only seventeen at the moment. I can’t possibly imagine anyone else playing this role so well. Not only did Fanning have the innocent look built in, but she seems to have a face from the 70’s, a natural beauty that is hard to find today. She also sang the songs in the film quite well, with only having two weeks to practice and work with the other girls to feel like a real band, she pulled it off.

I was suspicious of Kristen Stewart for the role of Joan because I haven’t been able to deduce the volume of her acting talents yet, since she is always the shy, quiet girl in her films. Those qualities worked well for her as Joan Jett and made her a force to be reckoned with. Then when makeup got a hold of her and gave her a she-mullet and rocker clothes, she was Joan Jett. She had already had some previous work with playing guitar but also had practice for her role, as she wanted it to be as realistic as possible.

The story centers around these two girls and the formation of the band that became the first all-girl rock n’ roll band. Joan (Stewart) wants desperately to start an all girls band, but doesn’t seem to know where to go. Taking guitar lessons doesn’t work either, as the instructor thinks girls shouldn’t play electric guitar. One night outside of a club she spots music producer, Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon), who looks like a spawn of David Bowie and she approaches him. He’s interested and helps her form the band. They spot Cherie (Fanning) in a club one night scowling at the crowd and approach her purely on her look, which is a stand out from the normal long locks of hair the other girls are sporting, including her prettier, more popular twin sister.

The girls go through some tough practices in a tiny trailer with Kim shouting and throwing things at them the entire time (to sharpen them up) and before you know it, he has booked their first show at someone’s house. Kim had taught them well (to dodge trash) as they were bombarded with beer cans and other trash, simply for being an all girls band.

At fifteen, these girls were going to bars to play shows and get high on whatever drug was given to them, all while their families sat at home, oblivious. Joan’s family is never mentioned in the film and it comes off as a little odd. Cherie’s family is: her twin sister, her actress mother who has moved to another continent to be with another man and her sick, alcoholic father. After starting the band, she sees little of them and all but deserts them for Japan.

Their first big tour to Japan and with the band becoming larger, Kim uses their young, “jail bait” looks to get them further. The girls seem to be in a whirlwind of drugs, sex and live shows, not knowing which way is up and soon it all comes crashing down. Like so many bands before and after them, it was too good to last. However, the reasons behind it and the way that it’s portrayed by Director Floria Sigismondi doesn’t bring you to a crashing halt. There is a good resolution and a satisfactory feeling leaving your seat.

Touching on some of the methods that Floria used, she utilized her previous experience well. She has directed music videos for years and was a creator of the now classic blurry camera that seems to be on vibrate seen in music videos. Her techniques were seen in the film and used beautifully in scenes where the drugs were taking hold of the girls, as if to drag us into their world as well. If you didn’t know, you would think that parts of the film remind you of music videos, but it never pulls you out of the scene. In fact, it enhances the mood, and feeds your eyes.

If I hadn’t been a fan of the girl’s portrayal of The Runaways, I would say it’s at least worth seeing for the direction and cinematography, but I happened to really appreciate the acting as well. I have to also mention that Michael Shannon as Kim Fowley was such an eerie recreation. I had a chance to meet Kim Fowley before the movie and his essence was definitely captured in the film by the normally quiet, reserved Michael Shannon perfectly.

I know that I never mentioned the story line that much, but the story was a built-in goodie, it was all going to come down to the execution. So with a very entertaining story that takes you on a ride as well as a lesson to be learned, I would highly recommend this film to adults and responsible teenagers.

I give The Runaways 4 “fresh cherries” out of 5

by Angela Davis

About Angela

Angela is the Editor-in-Chief of Lost in Reviews. She and Ryan created Lost in Reviews together in 2009 out of a mutual hatred for all the stodgy old farts currently writing film reviews. Since launching the site, Angela has enjoyed reviewing indie films over all other films, picking up new music from all corners of the world and photographing live shows. She is the co-host of Blu Monday and a member of the Kansas City Film Critic Circle.

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