The Runaways

Weeing on guitars, first periods and lots of sweary language. Tut tut, it's just not necessary is it?
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The Runaways were an all-girl punkrock band who formed in Los Angeles in the mid-70’s. Helped partially by some brilliant songs, including Neon Angels and Cherry Bomb, and partially by their provocative ‘jail-bait’ sexuality, especially from 15-year-old singer Cherie Currie, they stormed the charts and enjoyed phenomenal success throughout the world before crashing and burning in a blaze of drug-fuelled acrimony. That, at least, is what it says on Wikipedia. I’m afraid to say I hadn’t actually heard of the band before seeing this film. I did know the song I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll, however, subsequently recorded by Runaways guitarist Joan Jett. Although even that, if I’m being honest, is mainly from the Britney Spears version – DON’T JUDGE ME!

I was fairly ambivalent about seeing this one; the Rock Biopic is probably my least favourite genre of films (closely followed by the European Sex Comedy and The Jennifer Aniston Romcom). They all seem to follow a very similar formula and often tend to be authorized by at least one member of the band (this one is based on a book by Cherie Currie and Exec-Produced by Joan Jett), which means you know you’re not really getting the whole story.

That aside, I think this film is basically *alright* thanks mainly to an outstanding performance by Michael Shannon as the band’s ultra-controlling manager Kim Fowley. Shannon has a track record of stealing pretty much every scene he’s ever been in (his 8 minutes of screen time in Revolutionary Road was enough to earn him and Oscar nomination) and his flamboyant, monstrous creation – basically Malcolm McLaren meets Russell Brand meets Ziggy Stardust meets the bad guy from Silence of the Lambs – effectively blows everyone else off the screen. Almost everything he does is spectacularly mental; from his reaction on first meeting Cherie, “Jail-fucking-bait, Jack-fucking-pot!”, to the bit where he pays local youths to pelt the girls with dog turds to prepare them for hostile rock fans.

"I did know the song I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll, although even that, if I’m being honest, is mainly from the Britney Spears version – DON’T JUDGE ME!"

It turns out that Fowley is still around and is, if anything, more of a weirdo in real life which begs the question… why is this guy not a judge on X-Factor? He’d be incredible! Obviously he’d only last about 20 minutes before he said something so grotesquely offensive that the whole of ITV would have to be taken off air. But what a 20 minutes that would be. If nothing else, he’d shit all over Cheryl Cole. Probably literally.

In the role of Cherie Currie is Dakota Fanning who, without wanting to sound like some kind of horrific paedo uncle, is certainly growing up mightyfast. It hardly seems like five minutes ago that she was the precocious child star of films like I am Sam and War of the Worlds. It makes her the perfect choice for Currie who has this uncomfortable sexuality thrust upon her at such a young age and inevitably suffers a tragic breakdown.

Less convincing is Kristen Stewart (looking quite a lot like Noel Fielding) as Joan Jett, although her involvement will effectively guarantee a healthy box-office return as hundreds of thousands of lip-biting Twilight fans descend on cinemas to see their hero in action. I just didn’t really buy her as a hard-drinking, authority-subbing rock goddess - it’s not really possible to see past her previous incarnation as the quivering, virginal Bella Swan. This meant there was a frisson of excitement in the cinema every time K-Stew said ‘fuck’, had a lesbian scene or did a piss over someone’s guitar. That last one was pretty gross to be honest. There are actually quite a few moments like that in the film, where it all feels a bit gratuitous.

Most unpleasant is the opening shot where we see a blob of luminous red blood splattering into the pavement between the stilettoed heels of Cherie Currie who, we’re told, has just had her first period (I found this even more unpleasant once I’d gone home and looked up what one of those was on the internet…) There’s also a scene where Fowley refers to the girls as ‘dog cunts’.

Now, I’m aware this is going to make me sound a bit ‘Daily Mail’, but is that really necessary? Really? At one point I actually caught myself tutting – literally fucking tutting! I couldn’t believe it, I don’t think I’ve ever tutted before. It was the most middle-class thing I’ve ever done in my life.

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