The Runaways

Kristen Stewart stars in a lively 1970s biopic about the all-girl American band. By Peter Bradshaw

 

 

The time passes; the seasons turn, summer turns to autumn and now Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart are playing rock chicks. And doing it pretty convincingly, what's more – Stewart, anyway. This is the intriguingly low-key, unhappy story of the Runaways, the 1970s all-girl band fronted by singer Cherie Currie (Fanning), with Joan Jett (Stewart) providing guitar and rock'n'roll attitude. With a clump of black hair, leather jacket and high-waisted blue denims, Stewart has an eerie resemblance to Jett, and when in one scene she takes her top off facing away from the camera, her back looks as broad and muscular as a weightlifter's.

In 1975, Jett finds herself hanging out at Rodney's English Disco in Los Angeles, where the kids are getting into David Bowie and glam rock, getting off on Do You Wanna Touch Me. (Maybe period drama is now the only acceptable context for remembering Gary Glitter.) Here Jett meets bullying, mercurial pop mogul Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon), a bizarre figure who combines dandyish hair and fluttering mannerisms with boorish, bullying heterosexuality. He likes the idea of a girl band, and seeing Cherie hanging out by the bar, recruits her solely on the basis of her moody Bardot chops.

The film, from Italian music video director Floria Sigismondi, shows how the aggressive girl-band both grew out of the English androgynous rock scene and was also a reaction against it. Fowley sometimes affects to be irritated by these limp, fey mascara'd limeys, demanding the Runaways show some balls. Yet it was the pioneering gender-bending glam-rockers who somehow created the circumstances for an in-your-face female rock band, making an incursion into the macho rock'n'roll world.

Art Linson is the co-producer of this engaging, small-scale film; he is famously the author of the Hollywood memoir What Just Happened? in which he recounts the agony of seeing much-cherished projects getting buried or neglected by the studio. One of these was 2000's Sunset Strip, his 70s rock movie that died a box office death. Maybe The Runaways is Linson's way of showing that he can make a success of this subject, and I think he has done, with a film that shows how brutal and sexist rock'n'roll is. There are some cliches (drugs on tour, montage of the band climbing the charts) and perhaps Fanning looks a little fragile, but the film interestingly and sympathetically shows the human cost to Jett and Currie, who could never quite be sure if they had reached the promised land of stardom or not.

boorish : gburowaty, prostacki

clump : kępka

convincingly : przekonująco

dandyish  : dandysowaty, modniś

eerie : upiorny

fey : kapryśny, narwany

fluttering : trzepotliwy

incursion : wtargnięcie, najazd

limey : (pogardliwe) Anglik

mercurial : żywy, zmienny

promised land : ziemia obiecana

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