Cherie Bomb

1339963-1487439017_sm_1400790981_sm_14007909811
The Spectrum

Grade: B+

It seems unlikely that Kristen Stewart would be the ideal starlet to play Joan Jett. Remember, this is the actress whose most famous role was playing a girl whose choice between necrophilia and bestiality lasted four movies.

Unlike the Twilight series, The Runaways is actually a good movie. The biographical tale of the famous all-girl rock-and-roll band deserves much more credit than the critics have been willing to give.

It has been called dry, formulaic and forgiving of kitty porn. This is no more true, however, than accusing Paul Thomas Anderson's porn-epic Boogie Nights of being the same. Both films are sexually strong, deviant and have a flair for sex, drugs, and you know what.

Though The Runaways isn't breathtaking or terribly original in regards to the plot, it has considerable strengths – the same strengths that made Joan Jett a star.

The Runaways were formed in 1975 in the San Fernando Valley. Jett (Kristen Stewart, Welcome to the Rileys), an onyx-haired beauty with a penchant for wearing motorcycle jackets and dog collars, wants to create an all-girl rock band. She meets the infamous, coked-out record producer Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon, My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done), who sees promise in Jett and agrees to support her band.

To give the band more flair, Fowley decides to introduce singer Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning, New Moon). Considered "jail-bait," Currie uses her sweet looks and rebellious nature to take The Runaways to a whole new level.

What follows next is a condensed rise and fall of The Runaways, whose members break apart due to Currie's drug and family problems and Fowley's abusive nature. They do wonderful things in the movie, but the sex and drugs part of rock-and-roll, as always, ultimately contribute to their undoing.

There are many things to like about the film. Writer and director Floria Sigismondi (Postmortem Bliss) directs the movie with a keen understanding of the American rock culture of the time. The message in The Runaways' music is for the disadvantaged and angry, which is reiterated in almost every other frame. It gets somewhat redundant but it does give context to an otherwise aggressive movie about an all-chick band.

None of the members, by the way, are over 18.

The acting was key to the film; Stewart and Fanning did a phenomenal job. Stewart showed that she can act. Her role as the great Joan Jett is idiosyncratic to say the least. She plays Jett as an abrasive yet caring person, someone who would never abandon the band or sell out.

Fanning's Cherie Currie doesn't necessarily overshadow Jett, but Fanning's performance certainly gives Stewart a run for her money. The actress has not lost any of her childhood talent. Her character could have easily been a stereotype – an innocent young blond who gets sucked into fame and drugs – but she plays Currie as a genuinely good person who has made some mistakes.

Mistakes, after all, are what characterizes The Runaways' story. For such young girls, they reached the top faster and higher than anyone could have imagined, only to unceremoniously fall after years of dedication and hard work.

Yet The Runaways makes few noticeable mistakes in this telling story about a band that could have changed American rock forever. The Runaways may have failed, but the movie, Stewart and Fanning did not.

E-mail: arts@ubspectrum.com