Flicks about girl bands often follow the same trajectory: rebellious young women wanna skip town on the high heels of their rock ‘n’ roll dreams, but men tell them it’s impossible because “girls can’t rock.” Through a series of montages, the band ultimately gets good enough to prove they deserve a chance. And once given that big break, they launch headlong into all the pitfalls of fame. Think Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, think Ladies and Gentlemen the Fabulous Stains, and yes, think of the bio-pic The Runaways as well. All follow along these same lines. But The Runaways also delivers much more.
For one thing, the Runaways were a real band who really rocked. Before they debuted in 1975, no all-girl rock group had ever had a hit song, recorded a platinum album, or toured internationally. But it was a combination of guitarist Joan Jett’s killer hooks and lead singer Cherie Currie’s jailbait looks that took songs like “Cherry Bomb” and “Queens of Noise” to the top of the charts. Now director Floria Sigismondi has crafted a fitting tribute to these teen trailblazers with New Moon alums Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning front and center as Jett and Currie respectively, and the results are surprisingly awesome. Both are impeccably styled in looks straight out of your Runaways scrapbook, but their transformations don’t end there. When the duo takes the stage, their performances are so raw and electric, it’ll be hard for audiences to stay in their seats. Off stage, Stewart’s stoic portrayal of Jett never waivers, and watching Fanning become so oversexualized at the same age Currie was when she was groomed for stardom (15!) is nothing short of heartbreaking. A full-throttle joyride through fame’s treacherous trenches, The Runaways is a film for anyone who loves rock ‘n’ roll—so put another dime in the jukebox, baby! [Emily Rems]
Emily Rems is a feminist writer, editor, rock star, playwright, and occasional plus-size model living in New York’s East Village. Best known as managing editor of BUST magazine, Emily is also a music and film commentator for New York’s NPR affiliate WNYC, and is the drummer for the horror-punk band the Grasshoppers. Her nonfiction writing has appeared in the anthologies Cassette from my Ex and Zinester’s Guide to NYC, and her short stories have been published in Rum Punch Press, Lumen, Prose ‘N Cons Mystery Magazine, Writing Raw, and PoemMemoirStory. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize for fiction in 2015 and is working on a novel. Follow her on Twitter @emilyrems.