Friday, April 09, 2010
The Runaways (2010)
A change of pace from the usual fare that typically gets discussed here, The Runaways focuses on the rise and all too quick downfall of what was arguably the first all-girl fronted rock band. The "too much, too fast, self-destruction as if on cue" story is certainly not a new one, especially in the all too fickle entertainment world, so why exactly is The Runaways story worth telling? I'm not sure I can answer that. It is a mildly successful biopic and they were smart enough to focus less on the music and more on the manufacturing of the band itself. From the beginning, The Runaways were more marketing ploy than anything else (a trend in music that just seems to get more and more rampant). This is not to say that the girls did not have genuine rock star dreams. The problem is Joan Jett cannot get a simple lesson without the teacher telling her "girls don't play electric guitar," and their producer is constantly reminding them where men want their women...and its not on a stage. The girl's ultimate response? Taking drugs. Making out with one another. Missing their trailer park...that'll show 'em.
The biggest issue though is that I really don't feel like I know much more about those involved as I did going in. The girls are literally thrown together with little to no experience in even playing their instruments, but then suddenly are selling out clubs up and down the West Coast and getting a record deal. Was it really that easy? Things immediately start to fall apart while touring in Japan (Seriously, those schoolgirls will freak out over anything). There is a strange argument about how it should be about the music, not their sexuality, despite the fact that the movie clearly gives most of the songwriting credit to their manager, or at least, the fact that he came up with their one true hit single, "Cherry Bomb." Another big blow up in the recording studio (well-timed) and that is that. The great experiment that was tough as leather, ass kicking girl group blows up...and somewhere, someone decides to start The Go-Gos. Gee, thanks, Runaways.
On the plus side, the performances are all fairly excellent. I have not really been tracking the progress of Dakota Fanning's career nor have I bothered to watch those Twilight movies, but both girls are clearly full of talent and not afraid to strut around in their underwear, both traits that should suit them well in the future. Michael Shannon outshines everyone as their manager (horror fiends will remember him from the criminally underrated Bug from a few years back). And say what you will about their musicianship, while The Runaways may be but a small blip on the punk rock spectrum, I've always kind of dug them. And, yes, there is lots of good mid-70's music throughout (Stooges, Bowie, etc.). All fairly obvious choices, but then there is a reason these songs are classics.
There are worse ways to kill an afternoon.