Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Runaways

Wow, sorry so late! But I keep thinking about a movie I saw, The Runaways, the story of Joan Jett and her first band. Usually, the lifestyle of success and stardom is sunny. Usually, success and stardom don't chew young girls up and spit them out. But that's the great thing about this movie: when a young girl, with no real parental supervision, is seduced by success, you don't get a false picture of how, yeah, it was tough. But our young star pulled through, and she's still a success and a star. In this movie, what really happened to Cherie, the lead singer of The Runaways, was that she was nearly destroyed by rock'n roll.

Young Cherie Currie, portrayed by Dakota Fanning, grew up in California, with a mom who left with her second husband to live in Singapore and a dad who is slowly dying of alcoholism. Her twin sister is the closest thing to a parent she has. So what happens in 1975 to girls like that? Hanging around clubs, she meets Joan Jett and Runaways drummer, Sandy West. Jett and West think their all-girl hard-rock band needs a blond lead singer. So they audition Cherie. After a rough start with sleazy music promoter Kim Fowley, they get a recording contract. When their album becomes a hit in Japan, the Runaways travel there for a tour. But rather than success being a joy, for Cherie, it's exhausting, riddled with drug-induced collapses, and jealousy from the other band members because of the attention she's getting as the blond lead singer. How could she have coped with it all? She was 15.

Joan Jett, however, seems not to have parents at all. From what you see in the film, she's squatting in a cheap apartment with lots of other druggie teens. But while they get high and sleep, she's busy playing her guitar, writing songs, and trying to make it. And she does. Her sheer ambition and passion for the music do achieve some success. She had a few hits in the early 1980's. Kristen Stewart, the heroine from the Twilight series, plays Joan Jett. She's got Jett's slouchy posture and smoldering anger down. But I had never realized that Jett was a lesbian. I asked a pal about this and he said,"Yeah, everybody knows that." And in this movie, the experimentation between Cherie and Joan seems kind of sweet. When everyone else is out to use them, they're all they've got. Cherie's sad goodbye to Joan, as Joan Jett & the Blackhearts are taking off, takes place during a radio interview while Cherie is scolded for making a personal call from her workplace, a bakery.

While it was hard to watch what life did to Cherie Currie, at least this movie portrayed the truth about The Runaways, the first all-girl rock'n roll band. The casting was great, the photography captured the 1970's mood, and the end seemed inevitable. The loss of innocence and hope for Cherie is as bittersweet as her goodbye to Joan.

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