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Volume #2 of my "2nd Chance Movie Review" series, which I hope to continue for the indefinite future.

I love movies, mostly because they are the visual manifestation of books and stories, which I learned to love at a very young age.

But I digress, tonight, I offer up for your perusal "The Runaways", a film which I passed on a walk-in Theatre viewing, mostly for the content. After one watches The Doors, how can any other Rock n Roll biopic compare?

Follow me below the fold, to find out if I've wasted my 106 minutes, or not...

The Runaways, co-starring Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart, along with a great supporting role by Michael Shannon as The Runaways manager Kim Fowley.

IMDB.com Movie Stats:

Length: 106 minutes
Stars: IMDB.com viewers give it 6.6 out of 10 Stars (10,663 votes)
Reviews: 92 IMDB.com User Reviews, 242 off-site Critics Reviews
Distributed in the US by: Apparition
Original Release Date: 08 April 2010 (Maylasia)

Since this movie is over four months from theater release, and is no longer available outside of DVDs or paid TV, I'll include a plot summary:

  1975 San Fernando Valley, CA - Joan Larkin reinvents herself as "Joan Jett", and lurks about clubs while trying to turn herself into a female Rock-n-Roller. She runs into the odd and oily Kim Fowley at one of them. She gets the nerve up to talk to him - and presents him with a chance at the golden ring: she wants to create an All Girl Rock Band. Fowley is caught, like a fly in a spider's web, he pursues the additional members of the Bank, and they finally round out the Band with 15-year-old Cherie Curry, who only lip-syncs Rock songs and never really saw herself as a real singer until Joan Jett and Kim Fowley 'discover' her.
   Fowley, after thieving from the five girls who make up the Band for a while, claiming they weren't getting paid for gigs, but "paying their dues", manages to ink them to a contract with Mercury Records. The Runaways hit the Japanese tour. After Fowley pushing her as the "front man" of the group, including rauchy photo shoots and unsuitable stage costumes, Cherie falls prey to drugs and family pressures by the end of the film and leaves The Runaways.

Of course, if you recall any of the PR for this film, you will already know that one-half of the co-starring leads is the now infamous Kristen Stewart, of Twilight and it's sequels, Twilight Saga: New Moon and Eclipse.

For some readers this information would be enough to stop you from reading the rest of the diary. I urge you to overcome this, well, urge and read on....

While Kristen Stewart (playing the iconic Joan Jett) evinces some of her signature mannerisms (which she shows even in early works like Zathura: A Space Adventure-2005 and Catch That Kid-2004), like her Marilyn Monroe-ish catch-in-the-throat just when delivering an emotional line, these mannerisms do not dominate her performance. Luckily for her, it's what saves what might have become a clownish performance and instead delivers a somewhat raw and believable portrayal of the early Rock Goddess that Joan Jett was morphing into during the period covered in the film.

There is single moment in the film where Stewart shines, and ironically, it is a short clip fairly early in the film; wherein Stewart (as Jett) is walking away from the camera... right hand holding her electric guitar case, right shoulder dropped from the weight of it. Head bent forward as though she is watching her own footsteps, she trudges on, as she slowly but resolutely walks away from a ludicris scene where she is hoping for some guitar lessons playing rock songs, but the teacher tells her "Girls don't play electric guitar." And proceeds to try and make her learn the children's song "On Top of Old Smoky".

A much stronger performance was given by Dakota Fanning.

While Joan Jett is the more well known real life character from the film, Fanning (playing Cherie Curry) gives a understated performance of a young girl emerging into womanhood in the most unlikely of circumstances. Age 15, her mother announces to Cherie and her sister that she is marrying and moving to Indonesia. The girls can go with her, or go live with their alcoholic father and Aunt Evie. Cherie is quietly flamboyant, exuding sexual heat unappreciated by her peers - but which quickly catches the eye of Michael Shannon (playing Kim Fowley, the Runaways odd manager), who offers her a future she only dared dream about, as the member of a Rock n Roll band.

The film brings the feel of the mid-1970s with great costumes and sets. It seemed more like a home-movie shot from the era than a commercial film during much of the early and mid portions of the film, which contributed greatly to my enjoyment of it.

Trivia about the film from IMDB.com: "A New York Times review of the film quotes Joan Jett as saying that when she listened to the first tape of Kristen Stewart singing one of her songs, she thought it was a mistake and that it was actually her."

Score: 6 out of 10 - Not worth full-theatre ticket price, but a gritty look at the actual music scene, on the street, in the mid-1970s.

Rent it or watch it online if you have one of the Movie channels, but don't spend the dollars to purchase the DVD - you'll only watch it once.

Not a waste of 106 minutes, but I'd rather have seen something else.
 

Originally posted to Seriously Seeking Cinema on Wed Mar 09, 2011 at 03:30 AM PST.

Also republished by Electronic America: Progressives Film, music & Arts Group.

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