Floria Sigismondi's The Runaways, based on the book Neon Angel by Cherie Currie (which I have not read), is sort of a disappointing fashion shoot of a film about the seventies rock band which launched Joan Jett to prominence.
The music is there, but it seems disconnected from the performances, even when songs are being written and performed by Kristen Stewart as Jett, Michael Shannon as producer Kim Fowley, and others. It's not a terrible movie, but I give it a slight non-recommend even for fans of the music of the band or the era, or the actors, or rock and roll movies.
There's not much going on, so even though some of it is interesting or original, and there are some minor okay performances from Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning as Cherie Currie and Riley Keough as her sister Marie especially, it's paper-thin and kind of boring.
I suppose it could be argued that this is the director's intention, as the band is portrayed as shallowly conceived, executed and sustained for a brief time only through sheer bravura, Joan Jett and sex-appeal marketing. That does seem to be the director's intention, but it doesn't add up to a very realistic or compelling picture of the characters, either.
It also tends to follow in the tradition of The Glenn Miller Story, The Buddy Holly Story, La Bamba, Walk the Line and others in creating some pretty hokey stories about how the songs were written. Only here it's just not as much fun.
There are one or two especially remarkable and successful scenes with Dakota Fanning as the spaced-out, dislocated Cherie which seem to promise more in terms of character development, and one or two which are quite good with Stewart as Jett, but again, they seem out of place with the rest of the film. They're not pivotal or built-upon.
In fact, they're meant to hinge on a disappointing ending, which I won't spoil, but suffice it to say it involves Stewart as Jett dressed like Paula Poundstone circa 1989, and it's weak and weird.
Riley Keough is outstanding as Marie, the sister Cherie leaves behind when she is whisked away by the rock and roll life. She's probably the most believable and well-observed character in the film.
So, on the whole, unless you're super-interested in seeing The Runaways for any reason--not just maybe slightly interested--I'd stay away. But it's not terrible, just slight and poorly written.
Internet Movie Database Entry
Roger Ebert Review
Visit Alex Christensen's
Democrat Guide to the 2012 Race for President