More on “The Runaways”

1 April 2010

“The Runaways” leaves no cliché untouched. It’s as if the writers went to TVtropes.org and selected the biggest chestnuts.

  • girls with daddy issues
  • girls turn to music because they don’t fit in
  • success quickly leads to substance abuse problems
  • dreamy drug-fueled sequence in soft light with lesbian sex
  • conflict within the band over big ego of lead singer

Right up to the end:  the band’s big blowout fight takes place — in the recording studio.  The one thing I can say is that at least the film moves as efficiently as possible from one trope to the next, and manages that efficiency by focusing solely on Jett and Currie at the expense of all other band members.  It’s such a disappointment.  So Floria Sigismondi, the film’s director, isn’t going to be the next female winner of a Best Director Oscar; and I’m starting to think that Kristen Stewart has only one trick in her acting bag (avoids eye contact, hunches shoulders, mumbles).

And it’s too bad, because the film could have answered a lot of questions about women in rock.  The film has a lot of obligatory scenes of screaming male and (especially) female fans — but what are they screaming for? 

There’s a great moment in Todd Haynes’ “Velvet Goldmine” in which Christian Bale, as the maybe-gay teenager fan of a David Bowie-type gender-bending rock star, takes his newly-bought record into his bedroom in the crap suburban house where he lives with his family. He gently takes the sleeve out of the cover, letting us see the beautifully erotic nature of fandom. It’s a great moment — evoking the possibility he might experience by listening to it, not just for its music but for the personal liberation and transformation it promises.  “The Runaways” tells us that Bowie was also a huge influence on Cherie Currie (which is so interesting on its own).

The same possibilities were there for “The Runaways” other than to plow through all our received wisdom about how rock bands get together and break up.  The band’s officious manager, who teaches them how to growl and purr for their audiences, sees their appeal solely in sexual terms.  Rock is a man’s world, he insists; they’ve got to meet it on those terms.  “This isn’t about women’s lib, this is about women’s libido,” he says.  But during concert scenes, you start to feel intuitively there’s more to it, before you’re yanked away to another cliché (Cherie is worried about her sick dad!).

Another wasted opportunity to think about women onscreen.  But let’s also pause to remember that Joan Jett, now 51, is still rocking, promoting new talent, and looking hot and mean.

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4 Responses to “More on “The Runaways””

  1. servetus Says:

    I wanted to ask you about this what the target audience for this film was. I only remember Joan Jett as the singer of “I love rock ‘n’ roll”.

  2. didion Says:

    Did you know Jett couldn’t find a label to put out that record, so she did it herself? It promptly went to #1, so she became a very wealthy woman in short order. But I didn’t know that till the “where are they now” part of the film.

    I’m pretty sure that big rockophiles (like the ones who DID know that factoid) aren’t the target audience here. I think by casting Fanning and especially Stewart, whose “Twilight” films gives her major name recognition, the film wants to appeal to teenagers and 20-somethings. Although when I saw it there were a fair number of people in their 30s & 40s who likely banged their heads to Jett back in the day. Too bad they didn’t get a good script or director.


  3. […] I say cult movie, I don’t mean the big-budget numbers like last year’s The Runaways or 2006′s Dreamgirls, nor do I mean the Spice Girls movie Spice World (1997) or […]


  4. […] face it: most films about bands should be called “The Rise and Fall of [band name].” The Runaways (2010) is a classic tale that follows this model: band gets together, writes some great songs, has some […]


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