There are precious few movies about women rockers: The Girl Can’t Help It, What’s Love Got To Do With It, The Rose, Dreamgirls, Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains. This paucity is just one of the reasons that Floria Sigismondi’s The Runaways — which opens nationwide today — is so important. The first-time film director hones right in on the feminist issues of the Runaways’ story — sexism, sexploitation, girl love, etc. It’s also just a really fun, raunchy roll through the LA glam/pre-punk scene. Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett and Dakota Fanning as Cherie Currie have a hot kiss to the Stooges’ “I Just Wanna Be Your Dog.” What else do you want?
Of course, while that titillating scene generated a lot of publicity heat for the film, it might also have kept the hoped-for Twifans away. As has been reported elsewhere, the planned wide release of the film has been scaled back to art houses after disappointing turnout at its initial foray into major cities. This isn’t really a big surprise and is probably where the R-rated movie should have started anyway. Rock films rarely make big bank. Unfortunately, The Runaways is now tainted with a cloud of disappointed expectations. All the more reason you should see it. Support girl love, as the Riot Grrrls used to say.
I have serious issues with the film as a historical document. But as a feature film, it’s pretty great. It shouldn’t be called The Runaways, as it leaves out the stories of band members Sandy West, Lita Ford, Jackie Fox, Vicki Blue, Kari Chrome, etc. But if it were called The Cherie and Joan Show Starring Kim Fowley, I’d retract my reservations and completely endorse it.