Review of “The Runaways”


The lesbian scenes in the film are surprisingly organic. In the documentary Edgeplay: A Film About the Runaways, Cherie Currie notes that same-sex encounters were more common and less freighted in the ’70s, and that’s how they come across in The Runaways: as natural curiosity or as expressions of freedom and revolution, not necessarily connected to identity but not out of character either. Unfortunately, Sigismondi’s style eventually hems in the sexuality, blurring it and reducing it to suggestive sighs. But it’s certainly better than nothing (and again, much better than Twilight).

Ultimately, writer/director Sigismondi missed an opportunity with The Runaways. It could have been a study in contrasts: passive, girly Currie versus aggressive, boyish Jett; Jett’s Converse shoes and Sex Pistols T-shirt versus Currie’s platforms and Bowie makeup; and on the radio, the lull of easy listening versus the rawness of three-chord Ramones-style rock.

Instead of succumbing to clichés like the series of headlines blaring the band’s success, Sigismondi could have crafted a rapid-fire flip book of ’70s pop culture and personality, drawing on the energy of all those great Runaways and Jett songs on the soundtrack — without relying on them to breathe life into limp tropes.

Moreover, here was a chance to tell the story of a girl band — the whole band. But Sandy West disappears soon after the naughty shower scene, and Lita Ford doesn’t really show up until the last 20 minutes of the film. In the latter case, that may be because Lita herself declined to participate, but it still seems like a waste of pure rock energy.

Meanwhile, Alia Shawkat (Maeby on Arrested Development) must wonder why she agreed to do the film. Her character speaks approximately six words and is barely within view during the concert scenes. Despite that marginal presence, Shawkat recently summed up the movie perfectly:


…we were all just staying in a very specific style more than telling the authentic story of a young girl in the ’70s. It’s all about the music and then the drugs and we break up and that kind of thing.


Shawkat, blurry in the background

Shawkat’s character is supposed to be a mix of Jackie Fox and the other bassists in the Runaways’ lineup (including Micki/Michael Steele, later of the Bangles), mostly because (according to Shawkat) Jackie and her lawyers wanted no part of the film. So Sigismondi is not entirely to blame for backgrounding parts of the band. Still, couldn’t the fictional bassist — and the very real soloist, "Kiss Me Deadly" Lita — get a few more lines?

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