The Runaways (Contains Spoilers)

After seeing her play what I can only describe as a one-note role as Bella in the Twilight Saga films, I was all too prepared for Kristen Stewarts role as Joan Jett in this film to be a bit more of the same. But, after having seen promising trailers that changed my mind, and then going and seeing The Runaways on its opening night, I can honestly say I was totally surprised at how she has broken way out of her acting shell and come out with something totally different. Forget being a Vampire’s love interest, this is where Kristen Stewart is making her proper mark in her acting!

The Runaways is a biopic that tells the story of the fledgling band of the same name, the first ever all-girl rock band of their time. Its 1975 when all of this takes place, and straight away, I was totally convinced by everything down to the type of decorations people have in their homes. Everything about The Runaways is centred on the music, and the drama that surrounds it. It doesn’t pretend to be something that it’s not, and thankfully didn’t go off on a total tangent about their private lives (well, none more than was necessary to the story), or focus on how they made their first big hit and then stop. The Runaways was dramatic, intense, and filled with the kind of rock-and-roll attitude that they themselves became famous for.

Whilst you might be mistaken for thinking that Kristen Stewart has the centre role here, it’s actually Dakota Fanning’s portrayal of Cherie Currie that the main story follows. This could be, in some way, done in an ironic way as it was her media attention that split her off from the band originally, but I’m pretty sure that it’s down to the fact that this film is based (in part, at least) on the novel “Neon Angel” by Cherie Currie herself. It makes sense, then, that most of the drama we see comes from her failing home life and her dwindling relationship with her sister and divorced parents. Whilst we don’t get much of an insight into the lives of the other members of the band, The Runaways still has enough of the drama needed to successfully carry the film without either overdoing it or underwhelming us and leaving us bored. Kristen Stewart’s Joan Jett, obviously, takes a lot of the storyline too, but that’s because she’s Joan Jett! None of the “family drama” seeps into her character too much, but instead we follow Joan Jett as she starts out worshiping her idols and picking up a guitar for the first time, to putting together her band and leading them on to success.

The thing that I liked most about Stewart’s acting as Joan Jett is that she only does the annoying, stutter-y, shy, “Bella” character once throughout the entire film. The rest of the time, she is rock and roll personified, like Joan Jett was. She cuts the figure of someone who is a determined leader, focussed on what she wants and how to get there. And it that kind of convincing acting that shows just how much more Kristen Stewart is capable of.

Something that truly surprised me, though, is how much older (and yet, no more mature) Dakota Fanning has been made up to be in this film. Again, since she is the main focus of the film, we see her gradual progression from a shy, retiring hopeful young girl to a rebellious front-woman of a world conquering band and slowly slips into the sex, drugs and rock-and-roll lifestyle that comes with it.

There was very little about this film that I didn’t like, and I think that is mostly down a lot of the little things that make an overall bigger effect on the film. It would have been all too easy for the people behind the film to focus on the songs that The Runaways became most famous for, but in fact the soundtrack is so varied that you get a mix of a lot of their original material as well as other songs that influenced the band and were huge at the time. It also would have been easy to focus on the success of Joan Jett and the Blackhearts that came after the disbanding of The Runaways, but instead this is only touched on at the very end of the film, which means that The Runaways STAYS as a story about The Runaways. The fact that the main cast got together for a month before the film began shooting to practise and record The Runaways’ songs clearly made a difference, because it shows during the performance scenes when they all act as a band together and are able to sound like one too. The fact that Kristen Stewart doesn’t just look the part (and she truly does!), but that she totally projects Joan Jett onto the screen as well is awesome. The fact that (though I was unsure during the film) the events that take place are somewhat accurate to those that went on originally in the 70’s amongst the band means that the subject source is more reliable. And this comes mostly from the fact that not only is the film based on Cherie Currie’s novel, but also that Joan Jett herself was an Executive Producer on the film. It is all of these kinds of elements that truly make The Runaways what it is.

All in all, I thought that The Runaways was an entirely satisfying film filled with rock-and-roll mentalities, good music and a well-written story behind it. For these reasons I’m giving The Runaways a 9 out of 10, and will probably have “Cherry Bomb” in my head for days to come now!

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