The Runaways - DVD Review

'Sigismondi's inexperience shows when she has to stop the drug-taking and music-playing and focus on inconvenient side steps like plot, dialogue and interaction'

Less a coherent, narrative-led film, more a collection of scenes loosely dealing with the same subject matter (rock music, drugs, depravity, youthfulness or the lack thereof), The Runaways is a messy trawl through a messy time. Directed by Floria Sigismondi, for whom this is clearly a passion project (she also wrote the script), the film is the Italian's first. It shows.

It shows mainly when Sigismondi has to stop the drug-taking and music-playing and focus on inconvenient side steps like plot, dialogue and interaction. Witness a turning-point scene where band members round on Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning) for taking part in a fashion shoot which is more chic chick than rock chick. The conflict feels false and forced, the messy metaphor of the walls falling down (they literally do) is clunky and unconvincing.

Michael Shannon is good as ringmaster Kim Fowley but herein lies another problem with the film: it's lack of detachment or criticism. Fowley is clearly manipulating The Runaways for his own ends but here he's comic relief. Currie, just fifteen when she joined the band, looks dangerously like she is a victimised child although by whom she is victimised and how much blame anyone should take for it seems to pass over the director without a second thought. Joan Jett (Kristen Stewart), a central figure in all this and the most recognisable name on display, is basically a bystander with a moody look and a wicked leather jacket. She is categorically not a 'character' in the sense that characters undergo development and speak lines which have an impact on the action.

If this isn't a successful music-biopic then what is it? It can only be fan art and given that label the film perks slightly. The concert scenes are well directed, the music still feels raw, edgy and slightly out of control, the characters (faults with depiction of said 'characters' not withstanding) are straight out of the type of Rock Opera that sells out Broadway theatres. There's a lot to say about The Runaways. Sadly, Sigismondi says pretty much none of it.

Look further...

'a fun, electric and gritty glimpse into the lives of a group of five teenagers being rocketed to fame' - Centerfolds & Empty Screens


  1. I atually quite this. Believe it or not I still have a Runaways album on vinyl from when I was 1!! It is post Cherie Curie though.
    It is fair to say I haven't read a positive review on this at all. I don't think it is all that bad. Far from great but it is a fair bio pic in my opinion. May be I'm prejudiced because I like the Runaways!

  2. I enjoyed experiencing the music (some of which I'd heard before, most of which I wasn't familiar with) but that's about all. As with any biopic, fans will definitely get something out of it but as an exercise in film-making I thought it was lacking in quite a number of areas. Glad you enjoyed it though!

  3. I like the music of the Runaways but man, this movie was terrible. Michael Shannon was great but there was a lot of liberties that angered me. Especially since there were 2 bass players during that period with the Runaways and there wasn't enough about Lita Ford who we all know became a very big star in the 80s.

    It was just a mess despite some good moment such as Dakota Fanning lip-syncing "Lady Grinning Soul" by David Bowie.

  4. Oh god my typing skills are bad..I atually quite this...WT..?!!! Sorry about that!
    I agree with not there enough about lita Ford as well. I had forgoten about that but I was thinking about it right throughout the movie. It was glaring as she is the one who went on to really forge a career mores o than Joan Jett. Still have all my Lita albums!!

  5. Interestingly, I didn't know anything about Lita Ford until those two last comments, which I think backs up what I was saying above. Sigismondi just isn't interested in telling the story; she just wants to cram as much drug-taking and music performance in their as possible. Sad to hear that she missed out what sounds like a large part of the group's dynamic.

  6. I believe the lack of anything to do with Lita Ford in the film was because she wanted nothing to do with it and thus would not give permission for them to use her life story. Hence she appears just as a background almost figure. Likewise the drummer in the film is fictional as the original drummer wouldn't even let her name be used in it.

    I thought the film was fairly enjoyable but it really wasn't anything special.

  7. Good insight there David, thanks a lot! Must read something decent on The Runaways one of these days. Sounds like a very interesting story.