She Was Only 15
"The Runaways" appears to be a movie made for two types of people, those who were a fan of "The Runaways" music and those who are fans of actresses Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning. For those who don't fit into either of those categories and watch "The Runaways" have a good chance of coming away unimpressed and slightly disappointed because whilst it does a decent job of recapturing the era it doesn't do a good job of telling the story which is based upon lead singer Cherie Currie's book. I say that because the narrative arc of "The Runaways" ends up ordinary telling of how the band came to be, the success and then the destruction but never really goes into the detail preferring to deliver what feels more like an anarchic collection of events. In fact at times "The Runaways" seems more interested in trying to shock rather than tell the story.
So as already mentioned "The Runaways" is based upon Cherie Currie's book and whilst it unsurprisingly tells the story of Joan Jett the focus is very much on Currie's part in the story. As such whilst we watch Joan form an all girls rock band with the help of manager Kim Fowley the real story centres on 15 year old Cherie and how she got picked to be the singer of the band with the song "Cherry Bomb" written for her when she auditioned. We watch as The Runaways get tutored by Kim in what it will take to make it in the rough world of a gigging band, the success when they sign to Mercury records and gigging in Japan. But we also see how because Kim made Cherie the face of the band it caused issues from tension between band mates to it all becoming too much for Cherie who quit.
Watching "The Runaways" you can see some very interesting stories from Joan's story of being all about the music through to Kim's story about basically using the band and the fact they were young women to make money. But instead we get this routine rise and fall of a band which never really goes that deep preferring to give a potted series of events such as Cherie's individual photo shoot which was a major issue between band mates. It never feels like we truly get to know the trials and tribulations of how The Runaways managed to be so successful when up against so much and at the same time we never really get to know about the family troubles or the drug issues which get mentioned and sometimes shown but never truly expanded upon.
Now that is sort of ironic because what "The Runaways" ends up feeling like is a movie which is out to shock, why else would we have an irrelevant opening scene of Cherie getting her first period walking down the street and then we see her stuffing paper towels into her knickers. There are more shocking scenes such as the lesbian/ kissing scene between Joan and Cherie which really could have been used as a catalyst to explore their relationship instead of just thrown in to shock. Don't get me wrong as these things may have happened but the way the movie is put together it seems to be more about shocking the audience rather than digging beneath the surface of a story.
All of which is a shame because there are three things which end up very right about "The Runaways" and those are Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning and Michael Shannon. I don't know how authentic this trio looked or acted or even if they sounded like the people they are playing but they deliver character. It means that for the most, with the exception of some of the shocking scenes, you forget that you are watching Fanning and Stewart or Shannon and in the end their performances are superior to the actual movie.
What this all boils down to is that "The Runaways" didn't really do it for me, it may have captured an era and featured some good performances but it finished and I felt like I had learned nothing about The Runaways. Some will love it such as fans of the music and fans of Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning but for those who want to watch more than just the rise and fall of a rock band will be left wanting.