If psychology is the new religion, as Susan Sontag wrote, then recent biopics that try to explain the talent and the flaws of music stars might be seen as attempts to kill God. That’s probably reading too much into nothing but – hey – that’s where psychology leads you.
Like too many movies about real people, “The Runaways” suffers from an attempt to reduce regular pop people to child abuse, addiction and the proverbial lack of self-esteem. I am really getting seriously annoyed by the refusal to just accept people as they are. No wonder there are wars when we can’t even accept that John Lennon had good and bad sides, as do we all. Fussbudget perfectionism should not rule, but it seems to do so.
There are some really great aspects of this film. If you don’t know who the Runaways are, they were an all-girl American group who were sexual and under-age. They had some hits. This movie is based on the book “Neon Angel” by Cherie Currie, who was their lead singer and is now a sculptor with chainsaws, if you are interested.
Joan Jett built a solo career out of the group. Kim Fowley was their Svengali-light manager, who took a lot of money and exploited them. Their time was the mid 1970s.
The music and concert scenes are very good. Fashion and settings are portrayed a little more hygienically than in reality, but there is a genuine attempt to show the excitement and drama of attending concerts in those days. Honestly, just going to festivals and to concerts then felt like being radical and revolutionary.
Kristen Stewart of Twilight fame is excellent as Joan Jett. Former kiddie star Dakota Fanning is a glorious Cherie Currie. Both young actresses give very fine performances.
Michael Shannon plays Kim Fowley exactly right and, of the rest of the cast, Tatum O’Neal is terrific as Cherie’s mother and Riley Keogh is fine as Cherie’s sister.
Floria Sigismondi directs and has great artistic flair. But – and this isn’t a very big but – I am not convinced that the Runaways were a very important band. There was a lot of hype and shock about them, but I honestly couldn’t have told you the name of one song of theirs until I saw this movie.
It’s entertaining enough but the subject matter is spoiled, for me, by the endless psychologising that colours everything here. Not all music matters and, I fear, these people didn’t endure for pretty good reasons.
I didn’t fall asleep, but I won’t be buying the DVD. And I really don’t believe that says anything deep or psychological about me.