The Runways Review

Twilight stars Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning take a raunchy vacation from angst ridden vampires by starring in coming-of-age rock biopic The Runaways. Unfortunately the film isn’t nearly as thrilling or fun as a guilty pleasure should be. Like a disappointing rockstar, the film pouts and postures, but fails to entertain. It’s all just a little too self-assured in its own allure.

The Runaways is loosely based on lead singer Cherie Currie’s autobiographical account of life in the 1970’s all-girl rock band. After just a couple of years of successful notoriety they’re best remembered now for a handful of songs and the subsequent solo success of guitarist Joan Jett. What’s most remarkable about their story is how unremarkable it is. It’s the generic story of every promising band that ever fell apart.

Michael Shannon plays the band’s loathsome manager Kim Fowley, who plucks the girls from obscurity to craft them into stars. It’s a painful rock and roll cliché to watch a sleazy manager exploit naive young wannabes. He directs a never ending stream of abusive motivation at the girls, but it’s a little too vile and nasty to be enjoyably comedic. Maybe that ugliness is intentional and an accurate reflection of the true nature of rock and roll, but it’s not fun to watch.

Casting former child starlet Dakota Fanning as the increasingly debauched and damaged Cherie will draw mixed reactions. There’s a sharp contrast between her previously innocent image and her character’s hedonistic self-destruction. It’s an awkward juxtaposition and can be distracting for an audience. It doesn’t help that Cherie is also an increasingly unlikable character, making it hard to sympathise during her predictable downward spiral.

Opinion is divided on whether Kristen Stewart’s stalwart refusal to smile on camera constitutes talented performance or just unappealing glumness. Armed with a mullet and a leather jacket she does an impressive impersonation of Joan Jett. Unfortunately a shallow script doesn’t allow her to prove she’s capable of more than simply sullenness. Likewise the other band members and supporting characters barely have any presence or personality.

There are a lot of great films examining the infamous pleasures and perils of rock and roll. Unfortunately The Runaways is neither satirical nor effectively poignant. The film seems to try and revel in rebelliousness and lament lost innocence at the same time. It’s a confusing contradiction. Unless you have an existing fondness for the band or the cast of Twilight, The Runaways probably won’t be that captivating.