Based on the book Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway by the band’s lead vocalist Cherie Currie, I thought this movie just wouldn’t work, but it had to age before I watched it. Post-Twilight it felt like sacrilege to have Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett, but now it feels right.
Director Floria Sigismondi made the music videos for “The Beautiful People” by Marilyn Manson, “Obstacle 1” by Interpol and multiple videos for Bowie and Sigur Ros, so she understands rock and roll. And while this movie moves pretty quick through the history of the band, she succeeded in her goal of making it a coming of age story more than a biography. I really like the look of the film as well, as it moves from a colorful world to darkness by the end with each major moment having a slightly different look that never distracts from the whole of the movie.
Cherie Currie praised Dakota Fanning for her performance in the film, but obviously realized that so much of the book wouldn’t be filmed. She said, “My book is the real story. This is just a lighter kind of flash of what The Runaways were for a specific amount of time. How do you possibly take two and a half years and make it a film that’s an hour and a half, and make it even closely touch what was truly going on?”
As for Joan Jett, she felt that it captured 1970s Los Angeles.
Along with Stella Maeve as Sandy West, Scout Taylor-Compton as Lita Ford and Alia Shawkat as Robin Robins (Jacqueline Fuchs would not allow her name or image to be used in the movie), the girls start the film in the shadow of Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon), who sees himself as the creative force behind the band, which may be true at first, but so many of his mental games just end up destroying what he’s started.
It’s not perfect, but if it allows one person to discover the real music, isn’t that a great thing?