MAD MEN / GAME OF THRONES / MINDHOLE BLOWERS / NETFLIX



Genuine Jailbait

By Brian Prisco | Film Reviews | March 22, 2010 | Comments ()


The-Runaways-Dakota-Fanning-and-Kristen-Stewart.JPG

About as rock and roll as those late-night infomercials pitching metal compilations featuring Winger and Queensryche, The Runaways offers little insight into the influential all-girl rock band, but rather an excuse for the leads to try to shimmy off their Twilight bonds. It comes off as a Teen Titans version of a VH1 Behind the Music -- little girls in Halloween costume wigs trying to pull off rock moves in their mother's makeup mirror. As much as I respect the attempted anti-message of Twilight, any vestiges of grrl power are going to be drowned out by the sounds of perverts fapping under balcony trenchcoats. Running around in your panties, smoking and drugging, and playing at lipstick lesbianism doesn't make you rock n' roll, it makes you a half-assed version of Girl, Interrupted. Music-video director Floria Sigismondi takes Cherie Currie's memoir Neon Angel and turns it into an episode of TRL -- about five minutes of music wrapped around a massive amount of empty sentiment. Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart are decent enough, but totally overshadowed by Michael Shannon's rip-roaring Kim Fowley -- which is the only reason to see this movie. At least the little girls who sneak into this won't be walking out mooning over greasy-haired dirtballs and believing their ambition in life is to get impregnated in high school by their one true love. They will, however, be coke-addicted starletards passing out in front of Rock Band IV in bikini-cuts. Win-win?

The Runaways plays out like a lazy fairy tale. Little Joanie Larkin (Kristen Stewart) used to spend her days in a purple haze out back the schoolyard, sniffing glue and dreaming of being Suzy Quatro. Little Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning) used to get tarted up, put on sparkles, and dream of being David Bowie. One night, at a disco, higher than my student loan payments, Joanie meets with producer Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon), a sleazy arrogant maniac who abuses everyone like a Russian gymnastics coach in order to make them stars. In the film, Fowley machinates everything with the Rip Torn Motivational Program -- berating these bitches to think with their cocks and hiring teen boys to pelt them with garbage and bottles. He throws together girls with instruments, makes dirty sounding words rhyme, and quicker than frat guys can make jungle juice, a supergroup is born! Based not on music, heaven forbid, but the notion that girls are pretty. Then it gently flumes down through the typical rock film conventions: we suck, we practice, everyone hates us, we play one song, everyone loves us, fans, drugs, fights, breakups, and a bear with a banjo. Because it's based on Cherie Currie's bio, we focus mostly on her -- her relationship with her sister Marie (Riley Keough), her father's illnesses, and Fowley forcing her to be the sexual star by throwing her in pin-up spreads. Most of that is whizzed through like Ozzy Osbourne trying to transcribe parliamentary procedure. Never is there any depth of character or insight beyond the bare minimum of what is necessary. Even with Currie and Joan Jett on set nearly every day supervising, the final product feels so processed and manufactured, you'd think Fowley produced it too.

According to the film, when Kim Fowley threw together these girls with guitars, he was doing it to sell sex. It wasn't about showing these old men that young kittens can throw down a mean riff. When he teaches Cherie Currie to sing "Cherry Bomb," he does it with pelvic thrusts and mic fondling. He wants her to fuck the audience with her words. It's the age old argument for exotic dancing -- it's empowering to stand on stage and command men with your sexuality, forcing them to turn over their money by using your body as a snare. When the stark reality is that lonely perverts are paying you a dollar to see your vagina and 20 dollars to grind their boners. That's the problem at the core of The Runaways. What should have been empowerment becomes a crusty stain on your boxers. These young actresses are better than this. If it was acting out, if it was proving that they're more than just sparkle-whores, the fact of the matter is they've already done that in other films. If it was just harmless fun, making a few extra bucks and shaking it for the hell of it, then good on them. Hopefully they got it out of their systems, and now they can move on to bigger and better things. I'm all for stripping to put yourself through law school, provided you remember to learn the motherfucking lessons.

But what would you expect from a film whose poster depicts a giant moist cherry dripping with ripe juices? I guess a panel van spilling over with Polaroids of a bound and gagged Stewart and Fanning writhing against each other like Fiona Apple would have been a bit too much. The sad part is, the elements were there to make this a decent flick. The Runaways burst on the scene like the motherfucking Wonders in That Thing You Do!, instead of paying homage to how influential and important the band really was. Without them, there's no Go-Gos, no Bangles, and certainly no Donnas. Joan Jett punched into a jukebox, ripped out the steamy oldies, and gave birth to Pat Benetar. Whether for legal reasons or just plain old fucking bitterness, can we forget that Lita Ford was a member of the band? No more tears, friends. The bitch of the matter is The Runaways becomes a vanity project for Jett and Currie while drummer Sandy West (Stella Maeve) and guitarist Lita Ford (Scout Taylor-Compton, Rob Zombie's Laurie Strode) get thrust aside. Even more criminal is that for alleged legal purposes, the five or six bassists the band went through in their four year career get mashed together in the character of Robin, who gets portrayed by Alia Shawkat in a staggering waste of her immense talent. If you want a study about what happened with this influential chick group, you'll have to watch former bassist Vicki Blue's Edgeplay: A Film About the Runaways. If you want to see Bella in a mullet Rizzo-kissing the third incarnation of Goldie Hawn, then watch this.



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