There are some films that I consider undeniably good, despite not being a particular fan of them. These are films that I’ll watch once, possibly giving a second look down the road, but never really having a strong desire to watch them over and over again. The Runaways is one of these films.
The reason why I didn’t fall in love with the film was largely due to the fact that I don’t care all that much for the music involved in it. See, the music plays a large part of the film, given the fact that it is a biopic on the band “The Runaways,” and to be honest, that distanced the film from me. Despite this, the film wasn’t bad, I can see this even without being a big fan of it.
The main reason that the film doesn’t end up being a failure is due to its lead actresses (who actually performed their own vocal tracks for the film). “The Runaways” was a rock band formed in the 1970’s, and had many members. The two most prominently featured members, if the film is to believed, were Joan Jett and Cherie Currie. Jett is played by Kristen Stewart, and is a rebellious teenager. She plays guitar and performs backing vocals. The lead singer is Currie (Dakota Fanning).
Fanning’s performance is definitely the most memorable thing to remember about The Runaways, and is definitely the highlight of the film. Her performance is almost too mature for words, with her giving her character far more depth than is required, or even demanded by the screenplay.
The main problem with the film is that it doesn’t really get all that deep into the band. It is more of an overview of the band’s history, rather than an in-depth character piece. The characters are interesting, we get that much, but we don’t get to learn enough about them to feel completely satisfied by the end of the movie.
While they are interesting, they are anything but likable characters. This actually works out, but is something I feel like mentioning. Characters — all teenagers or “young adults” — smoke, drink and do drugs, cussing at anyone who angers them. This does help to make them interesting, and acts as a good contrast with how teenagers are expected to act.
But that’s kind of the point, is it not? The Runaways were rebels, and it is only fitting that they are portrayed as such. It is a biopic after all. I expect that The Runaways is at least mostly true to the real story of their creation, career and destruction. While I’m sure some liberties in the story were taken, but the story still seemed to be true enough, at least for me to believe.
Also to be praised are the vocal performances by Stewart and Fanning. They sung their own songs (except for one song where Fanning lip-syncs to David Bowie), and they are actually quite good. The real Joan Jett apparently heard Stewart singing, and believed it was her. The duo is good on stage together, and are also quite convincing off-stage.
The pair of Stewart and Fanning have a lot of chemistry together, and when they appear on-screen together, the film brightens up. Not in tone, but in terms of excitement. They bring something special to the screen, and it is enjoyable watching them together. It would have been nice to see them get a better script to work with, as their characters don’t get enough development, or at least, not as much as I would have liked to see.
I’ll admit that the film did give me an interest into The Runaways as a band. By the end of the film, my interest piqued for both the band and their music. It started to grow on me, and I was getting into the musical performances near the middle of the film. The film did give me enough about the characters to make me want to learn more about the band, and if that was its goal, it accomplished that.
The story is one that, despite not seeing many films based on bands, isn’t all that hard to predict. The band comes together, things are good. They rise to fame, but soon begin to fall out with one another. Even if this was the real story, it didn’t feel original at all. Maybe other films were influenced by The Runaways’ story, and that’s why this one didn’t feel original? I don’t, but it felt really predictable to me.
As a film, The Runaways doesn’t do anything special, except featuring excellent acting by two young actresses in particular. Their performances lift it to an above average film, biopic or not. The vocal performances are great, and the characters are interesting, despite us not getting enough of them. The film felt more like an overview than an in-depth look into the band, and the characters get less development as a result. Still, The Runaways is a good film, and while it isn’t a film I fell in love with, it was still one that I can appreciate.