Review: The Runaways DVD

STUDIO: Sony | DIRECTOR: Floria Sigismondi | CAST: Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning, Michael Shannon, Scout Taylor-Compton, Stella Maeve, Alia Shawkat
7/20/2010 | PRICE: DVD $27.96, Blu-ray $34.95
commentary, two featurettes; Blu-ray adds movieIQ and BD-Live
R | 105 min. | Biography Drama | 2.35:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1 | English and Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Before I sat down to bang out this DVD review of rock movie The Runaways, I was bouncing back and forth between Spielberg’s War of the Worlds on TBS (with commercials — a real pain) and David Fincher’s Panic Room on Thriller Max, co-starring Dakota Fanning (The Secret Life of Bees) and Kristen Stewart (Twilight: Eclipse), respectively.

Wow, things really change in five and eight years (also respectively). Youngsters Fanning and Stewart both played victimized teen innocents in the two genre films, and they were fine. But now they’re on top of the A list for, er, older teen roles — and roles in which they’re afforded the opportunity to shine like leading ladies. (Not that Stewart isn’t doing that in the Twilight movies — or is it vampire Pattinson who shimmers in the sunlight? Whatever.)

Coming-of-age rock ’n’ roll biography drama The Runaways, about the seminal 1970s all-girl teenage band formed by Joan Jett (Stewart) and featuring singer Cherie Currie (Fanning), is a rather straight-forward affair. Written and directed by music video veteran director Floria Sigismondi and based on Currie’s book, the story of the gals’ meteoric four-year career is filled with all the ingredients we’ve come to expect in rock cinema: drugs, fandom, sexual experimentation, the Richards/Jaggers-esque relationship between guitarist and singer, rock music as an antidote to loneliness, sadness and rejection, and so on. Not that the story and the unlikely relationship between the determined Jett and the glittery Currie isn’t well-told — it’s just not as revelatory or ground-breaking as it was in the days before VH1’s Behind the Music.

Barely there co-stars Scout Taylor-Compton (Love Ranch) as Lita Ford, Stella Maaeve (Transamerica) as drummer Sandy West and Alia Shawkat (Cedar Rapids) as a fictionalized bassist named Robin (original Runaways bass player Jackie Fox refused to give the rights to have herself portrayed in the film) are all fine when they’re on screen. But the film is essentially the Kristen and Dakota show when it comes to the depiction of the band.

The exception comes in the form of Michael Shannon (The Missing Person), who portrays the group’s impresario/producer Kim Fowley. A P.T. Barnum-like presence in 1970s rock who was associated with everyone from Helen Reddy to Kiss, Fowley was known to be a slippery, sleazy and seductive character all at once, and Shannon nails it perfectly.


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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.