Sex, Drugs and Rock’n’Roll: THE RUNAWAYS on Netflix

Dakota Fanning as Cherie Currie - `Bombs Away
Dakota Fanning as Cherie Currie

Dakota Fanning’s version of “Cherry Bomb” is the bomb.

Even Cherie Currie thinks so. And she recorded the original (as lead singer of The Runaways in 1976.)

Back in the mid 70s Ms. Currie  was just another mixed-up, shook-up teen, trying to make inroads into  the L.A. club scene.

Then she was “discovered” by Kim Fowley, a seasoned snake oil salesman slithering through the L.A. rock and roll scene looking for his main chance.

He found it when he met Joan Jett who had an idea for an all female rock and roll band (an audacious concept for its time.)

I was in London when The Runaways landed in the U.K. and I remember seeing their pictures plastered all over the rabid English music press (along with some fairly salacious headlines.)

The group went on to tour Japan where they were greeted with an almost Beatles-like hysteria. The original line-up splintered after two albums but they are still fondly remembered.  (Google the name of the band and you’ll get a ton of results.)  Female rockers like Courtney Love and the girls in The Donnas  – to name just a few – credit the group as seminal influences and/or motivators.)

The Original Group (l. to r.) - Lita Ford, Cherie Currie, Joan Jett, Jackie Fox, Sandy West
The Original Fab Five (l. to r.) –
Lita Ford, Cherie Currie, Joan Jett, Jackie Fox, Sandy West

The brief history of the  “Fab Five” had already been chronicled in a 2004 documentary Edgeplay: A Film About The Runaways, written and directed by Victory Teschler-Blue  (who replaced original bassist Jackie Fox in the group under the name Vicki Blue)when renowned music video director Floria Sigismondi picked the group as the subject of her first (and, so far, only) feature film in 2010.

The Runaways - Coming Soon to a Computer Near U
The Runaways – Coming Soon to a Computer Near U

Adapting the pic from Ms. Currie’s 1989 memoir Neon Angel (and with Joan Jett as executive producer)  Ms. Sigismondi pulls few punches in depicting the sex, drugs and rock’n’roll lifestyle that exacted a heavy toll on various members of the group and eventually led to the breakup of the original quintet.

I evidently liked the film more than the critics (David Edelstein in New York Magazine writes: In patches it’s agreeably lurid, but it’s otherwise ho-hum.) And, despite a cast that includes the aforementioned Ms. Fanning as Cherie Currie and  Kristin Stewart as Joan Jett, the film (according to boxofficemojo.com) failed to make back its budget.

Frankly, I thought Ms. Sigismondi did a great job of capturing the look and feel of the period.

For younger viewers the film offers a chance to see Twilight phenom Stewart in a role with real hustle and muscle.

Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett
Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett

Ms. Fanning is a revelation as well. The film`s opening images makes it clear the onetime child star has left her childhood behind forever.

Michael Shannon as Kim Fowley is both charismatic and creepy  (This isn`t about women`s lib, kiddies. This is about women`s libidos. Now growl … moan!

The film, despite its flaws, can serve as a role model for young women to,  as Ms. Sigismondi says on a Blu-Ray DVD bonus feature: do what they want … If it’s music that’s great, but if it’s not … just follow their heart.”

Director Floria Sigismondi, the real Joan Jett, Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning, the real Cherie Currie at a  premiere of The Runaways 2010
Director Floria Sigismondi, the real Joan Jett, Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning, the real Cherie Currie at a film premiere of The Runaways (2010)

Concerned parents should note that although the film is rated PG-13 the dialogue can be quite coarse in places. There are also scenes of substance abuse. Just so you know.

RIX RATING:  4 guitars out of 5

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