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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Bad replication

The most boring rock & roll movie ever made

Posted on Wed, Apr 7, 2010 at 4:00 AM

*
The Runaways
Studio: Apparition
Rated: R
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Michael Shannon, Riley Keough, Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning
Director: Floria Sigismondi
WorkNameSort: Runaways, The
Our Rating: 1.00

Talk about your Fabulous Stains. The first shot in this tepid, paint-by-numbers, utterly false biopic of marginally influential, Svengali-puppet band the Runaways is of a splotch of blood plopping to the ground. As we pan up, we see 15-year-old Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning) and her twin sister, the owner of what turns out to be menstrual leakage. The two girls run to the nearest bathroom to clean up. 'You're always the first to get everything,� laments Currie, who, if my understanding of female anatomy is correct, should be long past this milestone. Watching the film unfurl, that question sticks with me. The mystery will keep me company during the next 100 or so minutes, during which time I will question my ability to sit still for what must be the single most boring film ever made about rock & roll. 

The entire endeavor, in a just world, would have been condensed into a high-speed half-hour that served as the opening act for a real biopic about Joan Jett, the kinda-sorta founder of the Runaways, and the group's biggest breakout star. That hypothetical film would have been gritty, authentic, and daring in its portrayal of a natural-born songwriter breaking out of her shyness and sexual confusion to start her own label and self-make herself into a rock icon. 

Better yet, if Hollywood needed a fascinating woman of '70s rock to deify, they could have made a movie about Chrissie Hynde. 

Instead, we're forced to endure a story about a legendary record producer, Kim Fowley (played with manic brilliance by Michael Shannon in a performance that belongs in a different movie), who 'discovers� several teenage girls and recruit them for an all-girl band. They can barely play their instruments, but Fowley keeps the songs simple and teaches them to perform at full, feminine blast, and pretty soon they're playing for packed crowds. Or so we're led to believe, but writer-director Floria Sigismondi's scope is so limited that even the Runaways' famous sold-out show in Japan looks like it takes place in a janitor's closet. 

The rest of the film is spent sleepwalking through the musical biopic ABC's ' coke, sex (or, in this case, light bisexual petting), betrayal ' in such a way as to make it seem like rock & roll in the late-1970s was about the most boring trade one could take up. At no point do we see anything resembling joy on the girls' faces or their playing-dress-up performances. At no time does the band interact with their fans or each other on a meaningful level. Most dooming of all, neither Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett nor Fanning (poor guitarist Lita Ford, who actually found a better solo career than Currie, gets no attention) sell themselves as rock & roll souls. 

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