By Sandra Kraisirideja
With the help of Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning successfully erases her persona as a sweet, innocent child actress with her portrayal of rock singer Cherie Currie in “The Runaways.”
Stewart, who plays guitarist Joan Jett, also separates herself from the lovelorn Bella in the “Twilight” franchise and both actresses appear to relish their brief foray into the culture of sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll that still existed in the mid-’70s.
It’s actor Michael Shannon, however, who truly steals the show and elevates the movie to something more than just an entertaining biopic about the evolution of the penultimate all-girl rock band. Shannon was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in “Revolutionary Road” and in “The Runaways” he electrifies the screen again as record producer Kim Fowley, who helped form The Runaways. The energy of the movie picks up during Shannon’s scenes and drags noticeably toward the end of the movie when he’s not as prominent. His portrayal may not be what Fowley was like in real life, but it’s easy to believe that is how music producers at the time needed to behave. Shannon appears to be having a grand time and his complete acceptance of the role surely influenced the rest of the casts’ ability to just go for it in terms of inhabiting their characters.
Writer-director Floria Sigismondi blends a low-fi cinematic style with some artistic flourishes to re-create the manic, messy and wild early days of the band, which existed briefly from 1975 to 1979. The movie is based on Currie’s autobiography, “Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway” and focuses on the band’s early beginnings and subsequent breakup.
Adding authenticity to the look of the movie are production designer Eugenio Caballero and costume designer Carol Beadle. The clothes worn by the actresses are a snapshot of mid-70s punk and glam rock. Interestingly, the girls were merely emulating their favorite performers: but they relied on their own sense of style to dictate what they wore. It wasn’t about going to the mall and duplicating what was being marketed to them.
George Drakoulias served as music supervisor and the soundtrack showcases a mix of bands and performers who exemplified that era including several tunes by The Runaways, David Bowie, Suzi Quatro and the Sex Pistols. Interestingly the soundtrack features Runaway songs as performed by Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart, which may not be what some folks are looking for.
The movie is a reminder of why rock ‘n roll has a hold on people and will always provide an outlet for the misguided, rebellious outcasts who pursue their passions without any thought to money or fame.