The Runaways (2010)
It soon becomes apparent that the blob of red featured in the opening shot of this biopic is not some oblique reference to the The Runaways' best known song. Instead, according to her sister’s boyfriend, it’s a sign that the bands' future lead singer has officially become a woman. The frank manner in which Cherie’s first period is dealt with is just the opening salvo of a film that refreshingly depicts the pangs of being a teenage girl during the 1970’s. The fact that it also details the rapid rise and swifter fall of the all-female rock band is a bonus.
While Cherie sings into her hairbrush and competes in school talent shows, fellow hopeful Joan Jett grabs her chance after spying record producer Kim Fowley outside a music venue. Undeterred by her teacher’s advice that girls don’t play electric guitars, Jett brashly informs Fowley she wants to start an all-girl rock band. Immediately identifying the idea’s commercial potential, Fowley introduces Jett to drummer Sandy West and begins recruiting other members. Cherie not only proves to be the ideal front person for Fowley’s vision, but also provides the inspiration for their hit ‘Cherry Bomb’.
After years making music videos, writer/director Floria Sigismondi infuses her first feature film with a grittiness that wonderfully captures the hard slog endured by the band in their short career. Amongst the drug-taking, sexism and just plain exhaustion, there are genuine scenes of giddy joy and camaraderie as these young girls stake out their place in the world of rock. It’s worth noting that Cherie Currie was only fifteen years old when she started with The Runaways, about the same age Dakota Fanning was at the time of filming. While her relationship with Jett rightly takes centre stage, the depiction of Currie's family dynamic also leaves an impression in an understated way. On the opposite end of the scale is Michael Shannon’s portrayal of the larger-than-life Kim Fowley. Though he could have easily reduced the role to a caricature, Shannon keeps his eccentric behaviour grounded in reality.
Six months after Fowley’s death in 2015, bass player Jackie Fox came forward with an allegation that he had raped her when she was sixteen years old. She further claimed that fellow bandmates watched on, though this is disputed by Jett and Currie. So much for camaraderie.
as Joan Jett
as Cherie Currie
as Kim Fowley
as Marie Harmon
The character of Robin Robbins, portrayed by Alia Shawkat, is a composite for The Runaways' numerous bass guitarists, including Jackie Fox who denied permission for her name to be used in the film.