“Twilight’s” Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning are the box office draws in “The Runaways.” Yet more of the credit should go to Floria Sigismondi, a director who doesn’t follow traditional Hollywood methods for making a musical movie.
First, it is not a concert film of wall-to-wall music. Second, she has made a warts-and-all work. Third, she has persuaded her two stars to delve deeply into the personas of the real Joan Jett (Stewart) and Cherie Currie (Fanning).
Both fled their oppressive environments and landed with an eccentric manager, Kim Fowley (a brilliant Michael Shannon), who ruled with an iron fist and profane mouth and spent no money.
Expectedly, the teens came under the influence of alcohol and drugs, with sex also in the mix. Sigismondi shows how celebrity and the stress of touring influenced the teens’ behavior, but she doesn’t excuse it. Rowley’s cheapness, which forced band members to share rooms in dismal motels, also shares some blame in the woes of the band, also called The Runaways.
Stewart emerges as the better actress-singer of the two stars. One reason: Her role is better written and her work at trying to keep the group together makes her more sympathetic.
Fanning is no singer, but she’s a fine actress who projects the hopes and traumas of her character, which makes her a wrenching figure.
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