Queens of Noise
The Runaways sings a troubling and relevant tune but doesn’t offer anything truly edgy to redeem its slow pace.
The film talks about the creation of the Runaways by producer Kim Fowley, who wants to capitalize on producing the first all-female rock band. The story lingers on adolescent Joan Jett’s (Kristen Stewart) fight to unleash her inner rock goddess and the objectification of so-called “sex kitten” Cherie Curie (Dakota Fanning) as the band achieves international stardom.
The only part Runaways may have done right was the cinematography, which was completely shocking and as rich as the emotive, psychedelic landscapes in Across the Universe. The visual of menstrual blood dripping on a sidewalk, unruly crowds and psychedelic romps through town are more memorable than the actual script. Nostalgic details such as rotary phones and bell-bottom jeans populate the screen-grabs, and close-ups of single characters’ exaggerated performances are chilling.
The casting is also superb, with every performer appearing at the top of their game with astonishingly provocative and faithful acting.
Stewart absolutely shines as the tough-as-nails Jett in a performance that may make critics forget about her terrible, unsympathetic work in the Twilight franchise. She broods and howls, and the opening shot of her running triumphantly through town in her brand-new leather jacket is exhilarating.
Stewart tends to fall back on her monotone growl a little too often, but she successfully channels Jett’s rage at a chauvinistic society that wants her to trade the leather jacket for a frilly dress. The end result is electrifying. I hope Stewart’s future will have more tough-as-nails, empowering roles like this.
Fanning pulls off a strangely creepy Curie. It is frightening to watch this 15-year-old actress evoke naïveté and poise while prancing around in lingerie. Fanning’s reputation as a good girl makes the exploitation of her character that much more troubling.
While the movie shocks viewers with shots of menstrual blood and lesbian kisses, it doesn’t say anything new about the exploitation of women to seasoned Jezebel readers and Lilith Fair attendees. Jett and Curie have a trite argument about the publicity provided by a raunchy photo shoot, an old man tells Jett that women don’t play rock songs, and a condescending shop owner tells Jett to stop admiring men’s leather jackets.
If it weren’t for the explicit lesbian love scenes, this would read like an after-school special about women’s empowerment.
Furthermore, one wonders why a script with so much vitriol against the male gaze must linger on shots of half-naked adolescent girls. This disjointed film will bore and annoy viewers seeking a feminist anthem.
Runaways barely redeems a slow script with edgy performances and colorful cinematography.