“Can you sing?”
“I won a talent contest lip-syncing to David Bowie.”
Long before Simon Fuller harnesses the girl power of the Spice Girls, Riot Grrrl guitar feminism and Linda Perry penned songs for every female pop singer on the planet, Kim Fowley wrangled the raw desire of a gaggle of teenage musicians to create the seminal girl group The Runaways.
Being the 1970s, this is a glam but gloomy tale of the twisted world of Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning), the teen crooner of the iconic "Cherry Bomb". This is Dakota’s all-grown-up movie. She nails the role as a drugged-out underage sex kitten, so it is no surprise at times she looks a touch like Lindsay Lohan after a night out.
Everywhere you turn, the media has Kristen Stewart’s long face staring out at you. It’s hard to see her as anyone but her Twilight character Bella Swan. At time, it felt like Kristen was channelling Shane from The L Word more than Joan Jett.
What makes this movie so watchable is the story mix: part of coming of age, part biopic of the birth of a music legend. It has all the elements of the fabled of rock and roll rites of passage: hitting the road in a beat up car, no cash, seedy hotel rooms, roadies and a fist full of drugs and alcohol. Through the 70s grainy style cinematography you are transported back to a time when glam rock and punk crashed to earth.
LA svengali band manager/producer Kim Fowley, a played with a delusional drug haze so thick you could snort it by Michael Shannon, should not be left near children. In that, this is a sad tale of how dysfunctional family life is a gateway to a wasted adulthood. After initial fame and a mind blowing tour of Japan the band imploded, leaving Currie to fall into a spiral of drug addiction whilst Joan went on to create The Blackhearts and hits such as “Crimson and Clover” and "I Love Rock 'N' Roll". Bassist Micki Steele joined The Bangles in the early 1980s and went on to huge success with songs "Walk Like an Egyptian" and "Eternal Flame".
The supporting cast is a powerful ensemble of hot young actresses. Arrested Development’s Alia Shawkat strangely doesn’t say a word unlike firecracker Scout Taylor-Compton, who lets fly with a great verbal assault as the band disintegrates. Rock and roll royalty Riley Keough and former wild child Tatum O’Neill form the eroding Currie family, and if life imitates art (or vice versa) these actresses don’t have to reach very far to understand the fucked-up-family syndrome.
OK, so don’t take the kiddie fans of Dakota and Kristen to this unless they need a life lesson in pitfalls of seeking fame. You’ll leave wishing you could live a little larger and love rock ‘n roll all over again with all the trash-bags sex and sin that is so alluring.
As Fowley says... “You’re a singer, that’s what you do – sing and strut around in your underwear.”
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