THE Runaways tells the story of the formation and rise to fame of the teenage rock band of the same name in the seventies.
It focuses on lead singer Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning) and singer/guitarist Joan Jett (Kristen Stewart) as they have to deal with vigorous touring, mass popularity and manager Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon).
What a pleasant surprise this film was. I knew nothing about The Runaways band. I’d heard of Joan Jett but that was it. After this tremendous tale of rebels with a cause I’d like to know more.
Musical biopics tend to be more sombre affairs that are often very polished films but lacking in ‘wow factor’ (Walk the Line, Ray).
The Runaways blows them out of the water with an edgy, cool take on female attitude that plays like a mix between Almost Famous and Thirteen.
Like so many new directors, Floria Sigismondi comes from a background in music videos but it serves her and the material well as she creates a fantastic visual experience.
She uses a lot of colours, especially bright reds, and, through hairstyles, fashion, decor, props and music, perfectly recreates the seventies.
The real revelation, though, is Fanning. She has really come of age and her performance is stunning. It’s all in her eyes. They exude attitude, sadness and confidence at different times and she’s not afraid to use her body as a prop.
This is a display up there with the likes of Joaquin Phoenix’s in Walk the Line but may be a little too controversial for Oscar glory. It should at least be considered, though. She’s that good.
Fanning re-teams with Twilight Saga co-star Stewart. Although she falls slightly into her co-star’s shadow, Stewart also impresses. Both girls totally nail the singing too.
Shannon, a highlight of 2008’s Revolutionary Road, is a bit camp, wild and slightly creepy as the band’s manager and is given time to shine in the rehearsal scenes held in a cramped trailer.
Sigismondi has adapted Currie’s own book Neon Angel for the big screen and brought it to vibrant life.
One fabulous sequence of the band’s first gigs on the road uses spinning shots, off-kilter camera angles, blurred visuals and Iggy Pop on the soundtrack to create a dream-like state that the girls themselves would likely have been trapped in.
Things take a more serious turn in the last half hour as the consequences of a hard edge lifestyle come to the fore, and the film loses a tiny bit of its momentum and energy.
However, The Runaways rates as a real highlight of the year and perfectly brings us sex and drugs and rock and roll through the eyes of teenage girls.
Youthful exuberance and attitude is here to bloody the nose of the musical biopic... and it rocks.
Rating - 8 out of 10.