Film Reviews

THE RUNAWAYS

By • Apr 5th, 2010 •

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It’s Dakota Fanning’s movie and she is terrific.

Joan Jett (Kristin Stewart) who started The Runaways in the early 1970s plays second fiddle to the highly dramatic story of lead singer Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning).

But there’s a fascinating backstory. At the end of the film there is a notice about what the former band members Jett and Currie and producer Kim Fowley are doing now. I walked out of the theater and said, “What about the other band members?” (See below for the explanation.)

Joanie is a misfit who prefers to be a rocker in the style of early androgynous David Bowie rather than a bubblegum princess. She wants to play electric guitar. Approaching promoter Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon) about her idea for an all-girl rock group, he sets her on the path of putting one together. They pick Cherie Currie because they like her look. She is 15 years old.

Kim is so flamboyant, the only thing he is not doing is waving a gun Spector-style. He is their Professor Higgins in eye makeup and scarves. After not paying them for their initial gigs, he lands them a record deal.

It’s the singer not the song. It all depends on the lead singer and it’s Cherie who commands all the attention. Of course, Joan (one of the film’s producers) doesn’t mind because she is lovesick and romantically involved with Cherie and it’s all about the music, man! But the other band members are jealous.

Soon Cherie is only wearing a corset and elevator heels for gigs and in solo photo shoots. Then for Cherie the drinking and drugs enter the rocket ship fame of The Runaways.

First-time director Floria Sigismondi captures the messy 70s and the romance between Jett and Currie seems authentic. However, Currie’s drug addiction and reason for leaving the band must have gone down in a much uglier way.

With Currie’s cooperation and appearance at premieres and on the promotional trail, her exit from the band is soft-pedaled and mushy.

The two original band members who fought the making of the film are cast as extras and, as additional insult, are the plain, wordless members of the group. Its only Jett, Currie and Kim who wear makeup and rock star thrift clothes couture.

Though, I must say, if I was Lita Ford and they offered me a measly thousand dollars for the rights to my story, I would have said no also.

Shannon, eyes bulging, seems to have been allowed to let his freak flag fly. Though the end quote on Kim Fowley today says he can be seen walking around Hollywood leaning on a cane with green hair and a lot of The Runaway’s publishing cash hanging out of his pockets.

The legal hassle via The Hollywood Reporter and various other outlets: The Runaways guitarist Lita Ford and bass player Jacqueline Fuchs are background characters in the film. Both former members fought the movie being made.

Ford told Rolling Stone: “I just want people to know that I have nothing to do with that film. Joan’s manager offered to buy the rights to my life story for a thousand bucks. I thought that was pretty disgusting–we never even replied.”

Producers decided to move forward without Ford’s life rights, and gave her character minimal screen time to reduce legal risks.

Fuchs, whose name was changed in the film, became an entertainment lawyer. “Fuchs tried to have the film halted, and has demanded to see the script, even though there is no character based on her,” claims a lawsuit for torturous interference with business relationships quietly filed against Fuchs in December by Jett.

To make THE RUNAWAYS, producers optioned Currie’s book “Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway” and secured her life rights. They got rights from Jett and drummer Sandy West, as well as producer Kim Fowley.

Considering how much dialogue and screen time The Runaways drummer got, I think she took the thousand dollars.

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