‘The Runaways’ may be most buzzed-about film | ParkRecord.com

‘The Runaways’ may be most buzzed-about film

Jay Meehan, Record contributing writer

"Let me tell you what we been doin’

Neon angels on the road to ruin."

The Runaways

By the time back in the mid-70s when the then-shuffling lineup of the all-girl rock band "The Runaways" was finally set somewhat in stone, guitarist/vocalist Joan Jett and lead singer Cherie Currie were ready to rumble. Not quite yet with each other but that would come soon enough.

The story of how the band came together under the influence of the manipulative L.A. rock-impresario Kim Fowley to become the poster children of tough-chick teen-age rock-and-roll has now been chronicled on film by writer/director Floria Sigismondi.

"The Runaways" will have its World Premiere Sunday, Jan. 24, at 6:30 p.m. at the Eccles Center as part of the TwentyTen Sundance Film Festival.

The buzz, and make no mistake, there’s plenty of it surrounding this film, comes from many directions. First of all Sundance-vet Kristen Stewart, fresh from "New Moon," the latest episode in the "Twilight" saga ("Eclipse" is currently in post-production) and last year’s Festival surprise "Adventureland," portrays the true rock-and-roll heart of the band, Joan Jett.

If that isn’t enough, the film features the soon-to-turn-16 Dakota Fanning in the other lead female role as Cherie Currie, the sex-kitten and front-and-center diva of the group, who favored a "Bowie/Bardot" look as part of her personal pubescent visual component. Jett flaunted more of a Suzie Quatro/Keith Richards guise at the time.

Ms. Fanning, who you may recall made quite a stir in "Houndog" back at Sundance 2007, coincidentally, or maybe not, also sandwiched this role between parts in "New Moon" and "Eclipse." Ms. Stewart, on the other hand was able to likewise fit "Welcome to the Rileys," which, too, is screening at this year’s fest, into that gap. A couple of busy young ladies who see a lot of each other, it would seem.

The fact that "Joan Jett and the Blackhearts" will be doing that thing they do on stage Saturday night, Jan. 23, at Harry O’s (tonight), also infuses the film premiere the next evening with more than a bit of excitation. The joint will be jumping, no worries there! And with only three screenings scheduled so far, waiting lines for those without hard tickets will probably not be short.

Jett, also a producer on the film, has long brandished an independent streak like Ani DiFranco, she owns her own record label, Blackheart Records. Over time, her music has brought her eight platinum and gold albums and nine Top 40 singles, not to mention a place as an originator, innovator, and visionary in the pantheon of the edgier side of rock.

More than your run-of-the-mill tale of teen-age excess, "The Runaways" follows these two very singular wild and crazy Southern California chicks from 1975 to 1977 through unrestrained agitation both within the sisterhood of the band and, especially, with each other. Not to mention their relationship with Fowley, the Svengali figure in their creative lives, portrayed by Michael Shannon.

No doubt the film is a major "rocker,’ in that, besides showcasing actual music of The Runaways, writer/director Floria Sigismondi brings a long resume of directing hit rock videos to this project, her first feature.

A naturalized Canadian born in Italy and a fine-art photographer whose work is exhibited worldwide, Sigismondi is best known for her videos featuring Marilyn Manson, David Bowie, Bjork, The Cure, Christina Aguilara, The White Stripes, Incubus, The Raconteurs, and many others.

Due to her award-winning virtuosity in the genre, "The Runaways" will also turn a lot of heads cinematically, as is made quite evident by the short trailer for the film currently making the rounds. The camera work and visual elements combine to create some startlingly beautiful footage. I suppose, with Sigismondi at the helm, one shouldn’t expect any less.

The Runaways got real big real fast. In Japan for a sold-out tour, they were greeted like the Beatles, had their own TV special, and recorded a live album that went gold. As many who preceded and followed, they found it difficult to maintain perspective and hold it all together. They had fascinating times and made fascinating music. They were neon angels on the road to ruin.

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