Mar 20, 2010

Rock & Roll Movie Review: The Runaways ****

If you were an adolescent rock & roll boy like myself in the late seventies, you were fascinated by the Runaways from the pages of Creem magazine. You said to yourself "that’s a different kind of girl than the ones I see on TV. I am a little scared of her but when I become a teenage I have to get me one of those!! "

The new movie “The Runaways” is the long overdue story of the band- the Runaways. They were the first all girl rock band to ever make a name for themselves. Although they never hit the mainstream in America, they earned a huge following in Japan, opened for Van Halen, Cheap Trick & the Ramones in America & were true pioneers.
A few famous rock chicks came out of the Runaways; the great Joan Jett, & metal queen Lita Ford the most famous. There’s also Micki Steele who went on to play bass in the Bangles & drummer Sandy West, (possibly the best female drummer ever) who remained friends with Joan Jett until her untimely passing from lung cancer in 2006. And of course there is Cherie Curie, the original lead singer.

The new film is based on Cherie Currie’s book. Dakota Fanning (the girl from War of the Worlds) was absolutely fantastic as Cherie, and steals the show. Her acting as well as singing & stage performances are mesmerizing. The movie shows how the band got started, as manager Kim Fowley brings to life Jett’s dream of an all girl band. He hand picks Cherie Currie to be the lead singer selling her sexy blonde looks. She came from Hollywood dysfunctional parents, but always had a close bond with her sister, Marie. So when Rock & Roll came a knockin' she was more than ready to go.

The other side of the movie focuses on Joan Jett who is also the film’s executive producer. Kristen Stewart plays Joan & does a pretty good job as well. Jett is the creative talent, behind the band, the driving force & their leader. She deals with the manager, keeps the peace, writes songs, & is always there for Cherie. Like she says in the movie, rock & roll is her whole life. Her ongoing determination is to make it, despite being a girl. When she starts out, she’s told that “girls don’t play the electric guitar”. She wants to prove the world wrong.
The film shows the development of the group, as they rehearse and try to get noticed. We see the friendship bond between Jett & Cherie grow, as well as the dramas of Cherie’s personal life. The band gets a record deal, and then enjoys success, making it big in Japan.
Their first big hit is the Jett/Fowley composition “Cherry Bomb”. We see Cherie singing lead, in thigh high stockings selling herself on stage as jail bait. Fowley has her pose for sexy pictures without the other members knowing. This infuriates them later, especially because to them it’s about the music.
Sex, drugs & decline follow, like any good rock story and young Cherie (only 17years old) leaves the band. The Runaways eventually dissolve & go their own way, leaving Fowley bitterly behind. The film ends as Joan Jett makes it big on her own & Cherie now working a regular job, hears Jett on a radio interview. She calls in & surprises Jett. There is an emotional loss for words as the film ends to the DJ playing another hit by Joan Jett “Crimson & Clover” , then the credits roll to another graet Joan Jett classic- “Bad Reputation”.

Interesting to me was the portrayal of Lita Ford in the film. Lita Ford has had an ongoing feud with Jett since the breakup, & had nothing do with the movie. Nor have I seen any comments from her. I think the girl who played her (Scout Compton Taylor) was a dead ringer for a teenage Lita Ford & did a great job. Since Jett was the executive producer, I think she had a lot to say about how to portray Lita. I think she did a fair job, she plays a minor role in the movie but her presence was known. I thought she gave her some credit as a guitar player by showing her wail away some leads. Ford does have a quick temper & flies off the handle at Cherie a few different times. But usually for good reason. First when she requested to sing “Fever” at her first rehearsal, Lita barks “we don’t do slow songs”, and again when Cherie wants to keep a slow song on the car radio. Ford is held back from fighting Cherie by Jett when she refuses to sing at her what turns out to be her final recordings session.
All in all this was a great rock & roll movie, destined to be a classic. I hope it turns people on to the Runaways music, and Joan Jett & Lita Ford’s solo careers as well. I hope it also makes people realize all that Joan Jett has accomplished in her lifetime and she can get more of the respect she deserves.
Trivia: Did you know that after getting turned down by 23 record labels, she was the first woman to start her own label. Did you also know the song “I Love Rock & Roll” was #1 for seven weeks & is Billboards #56 record of All Time!!

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