Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Runaways

The Flick: The Runaways

The Actors: Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning, Michael Shannon, Riley Keough (Elvis' granddaughter) and so on.

The Dealio: This is the story of how the '70's all-girl band The Runaways was born, flew to the sun-or, at least, Japan-then self-imploded, as is historically and cinematically customary. Whether the story is biographical (The Doors) or fictitious (The Commitments), it seems that the tales always have a similar arc. So, it must be true.
The director of this piece is Floria Sigismondi, who, clearly, is a photographer and artist before a storyteller. Not one tiny element of authenticity is too small to be lingered over('Ooo, look: a bonafide '60's-'70's brocaded, rotary wall phone! Scrumptous! Look! Men wearing make-up and women wearing sequined halter school!'). Her background in music vids has also given Sigismondo cart-blanche to indulge in flashy-lit, jumpy sequences, zoom shots of Fanning's eyelashes and re-re-repeats of Cherry Bomb, arguably the bands' greatest hit. And, imagine! it was written, on the fly, without much thought or attention to anything but a rhyme and words that would -in the words of the Runaways' sleezoid manager (why do I have absolutely no difficulty in believing this was a fairly spot-on portrayal?)- would grab the listeners by the crotch. Or another related area of the anatomy.

The Grading Session: This was a movie I was really looking forward to- especially given how important a role I believe soundtracks play in the final product that is the film. I was under-served here. And not just by the lack of imagination in the soundtrack. I never really felt any identification with this historic, ground-breaking group, or any of the members. Yeah, I get it: they had lousy childhoods. Lots of people do. But what fed them? What drove them down this particular musical route? No idea. I also got the impression that Joan Jett just woke up one day, stumbled across an electric guitar, and the next day is able to find herself a manager. Even though she doesn't, at this stage, even have a band. And is taking guitar lessons from a high school music teacher- the first of many men to tell her that grrrrls don't rock. Somehow, deep inside me, I know the evolution was a lot more involved than this. But you don't see any of this on the screen. Where's the why and the hook? Where's the history, the personal back story?
The '70's were a time resplendent with indulgence and excess and this aspect is rudely and rashly brought to life in the film. So, what is more natural than the birth of legions of musical acts manufactured with an eye first to 'the look' and last to 'the sound'. The Runaways among them. They make music, answer to their own muses/curses. Drink and dope too much. Fall apart at the seams. Hope and pray for a second act.
Got it.
So, there I sat in the theater, alternately yawning (this is the Runaways, right!?) and wondering how soon I could get home and shower off the slimy, voyeuristic creepitude I felt coating my eyeballs? To me, this was more of a misdemeanor than a true crime- but only because it lacked the passion for the second. So, that, I guess was my biggest disappointment. Didn't show me the passion and the fire. Not even close.

The Grading Session: 3.01 pengies out of 5, mostly for era-appropriate costume, sets and design, as well as the good job Stewart, Fanning and Shannon did with the shoe-box sized amount of material given them.

Lessons Learned: Sometimes, when you put objects under the microscope, they do not become larger than life...but smaller.

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