Thursday, July 29, 2010

Blu-Ray Review: Dakota Fanning, Kristen Stewart Make ‘The Runaways’ Worthwhile

CHICAGO – There’s a great moment early on in “The Runaways” where fifteen-year-old Cherie Currie lip-syncs to Davie Bowie’s “Lady Grinning Soul” at a high school talent show. Her hardened baby face defiantly stares into the crowd, as her peers accompany the performance with catcalls. Yet instead of dissolving into a puddle of girlish tears, Currie flips off the surrounding student body. She clearly doesn’t give a d—n about her bad reputation.
It’s this spirit of raucous conviction that provides the fuel behind first-time feature director Floria Sigismondi’s biopic on the titular all-girl rock band that ultimately launched the career of Joan Jett. The film centers on two transformative performances from “Twilight” co-stars Kristen Stewart (as Jett, the group’s founding member and rhythm guitarist) and Dakota Fanning (as lead singer Currie), who share a palpable onscreen chemistry even as thefilm fails to adequately develop their relationship. Since Sigismondi based her script off Currie’s biography, the story is largely slanted in Fanning’s direction, despite Stewart’s top billing. Blu-Ray Rating: 3.5/5.0

Blu-Ray Rating: 3.5/5.0

It’s initially startling to see Fanning without her trademark toothy grin and Stewart devoid of the labored breathing and submissive devotion she sports all too easily as Stephenie Meyer’s tiresome heroine. It’s a joy to watch these young actresses blossom in roles so far removed from the characters they have become known for. After a couple stumbles into more “mature” roles, Fanning truly comes into her own as Currie, nailing the precocious singer’s pent-up rage, budding sexuality and ferocious onstage presence. Her performance of the group’s hit song, “Cherry Bomb” is so fierce and dazzling that it’s nearly impossible to believe that this same young woman was headlining “Charlotte’s Web” just four years ago. Stewart is equally powerful as Jett, effortlessly embodying the swagger and energy of the male bands she intends to upstage. Jett is well aware of the band’s marketable position, precariously balanced between empowerment and exploitation, and she becomes especially troubled when her freewheeling manager, Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon), attempts to turn Currie into a punk rock Lolita.

However, it is Currie who is conspicuously absent from the film’s audio commentary, which accompanies Stewart and Fanning with the incomparable Jett, who offers a fascinating glimpse into her songwriting process, while correcting some fictionalized portions of the film. Though she understands that cocaine is a more “visual drug” for her character to use, she insists, “We were Quaalude people.” Jett remembers that she did in fact visit Currie in the hospital (as in the film), though it was when her beloved bandmate was getting her tonsils out. Surprisingly, Jett claims that the film depicted the origins of “Cherry Bomb” fairly accurately, and she says that Shannon captured Fowley’s “energy and grandiose movement.” One of the few insights we get into Jett’s family life is when she says that her mother found the formidable Fowley “humorous.” The other factor that makes this commentary a rockin’ good time is Stewart’s endearingly awkward honesty. Her rambling, candid remarks paint a revealing portrait of her insecurity as she questions everything from her hairpiece and line delivery to the film’s arty camera angles and cliched, abridged script. “You don’t have time to say what you want to say,” Stewart says, succinctly summarizing the picture’s primary flaw.

Read the full review at source: hollywoodchicago

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