Sunday, April 11, 2010

Run Awaaaaay! Run Awaaaaay!

The movie “The Runaways” finally opened in Baltimore this weekend, so I went to see it yesterday.  (The Runaways were an all-girl rock band in the 70’s that featured future rock stars Joan Jett and Lita Ford.) 
Dakota Fanning as Cherie Currie and Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett

The original opening date had been listed as 3/19, but that turned out to be a “limited release”, and Baltimore was one such market to be off limits.  As you may remember, I’m a die-hard Joan Jett fan.  I was not at all happy about their moving my cheese.

So in the 3 weeks between releases, I decided to prepare by ordering a couple of books from Amazon.  The movie is based on the memoir “Neon Angel” by Runaways singer, Cherie Currie.  I also picked up a Joan Jett book based on interviews, wrapped around a ton of old pictures.  Joan was an executive producer on the movie.

The Joan Jett book was an easy read and the old pictures were really cool.  It definitely cast a rosier outlook on the Runaways period than did “Neon Angel.”
Cherie Currie from her Runaways days.

The Currie book was harrowing to read.  What the rock business and society at large did to those little girls was sickening.  What you forget is they were freakin’ 15 and 16 years old when they were in that band.  The demands placed on them by the business in general and their sick manager in particular were more than any kid should have to live with.

That said, the intestinal fortitude it took for them to go out there and rock out in front of sometimes-hostile audiences was amazing.  They played to slam-dancing, bottle throwing punks in England, opened for major rock acts like Van Halen, Tom Petty and Cheap Trick, and toured Japan to throngs of adoring fans.

Back in 1976 through 78, when The Runaways were playing, I’d never heard of them.   The LA “Glam” scene was as far away from my Ohio life as another planet.   But I knew that look.  All the hottest girls at my junior high school had those shag haircuts and high-waisted jeans.  Say what you want about the 70’s, but I loved that look.

I’d heard a lot of advance movie press about how well the actress Kristen Stewart (of “Twilight” fame) captured Joan Jett.  As one who has studied Joan Jett for almost 30 years, I was eager to see for myself.

I was absolutely blown away.  Kristen Stewart became Joan Jett.  It was like I was looking into a time capsule and seeing the real deal.

From the hair, to the smile, to the way she hunches over when she plays, to the barely contained kinetic energy of the way she moves, she had Joan down perfectly.

I also have to give high marks to Dakota Fanning.
 "Joan" meets "Cherie" in the movie.

I admit I have less to go on with Cherie Currie because all I know about her comes from album covers and YouTube videos.
 The real Cherie Currie

Dakota Fanning as Cherie Currie.

The movie was amazing.  I swear that you forget, at times, that you’re watching people pretending to be other people. 

My favorite bits involved the song Cherry Bomb.  I first heard it as a song from one of Joan’s solo albums, although I knew it was a Runaways song.  But Joan’s version is one of my favorites.  It’s got this gritty, “don’t fuck with me” toughness to it.

The song actually starts at the 25 second mark.  The video shows Joan doing what she does best, shmoozing with her fans and rocking out on stage.

What I didn’t know, until I read the book and saw the movie, is that the song was written expressly for Cherie Currie.  When she showed up to her audition and the only song she’d practiced was unacceptable to the rest of the band, Joan and their manager, Kim Fowley, stepped away and wrote it on the spot.  Watching the song come together in their crappy rehearsal trailer gave me goose bumps all up and down my arms.

The song became Currie’s trademark; right down to the cherry tattoo she got on her right shoulder.  When they finally busted it out on stage, it gave me goose bumps all over my body.  It was perfect.  In fact, it looked just like this:
The drug use shown was rampant and at times, hard to watch.  Even so, it didn’t come close to the depravity described in the book.  The girls had things happen to them, Currie in particular, that just broke your heart.  I was actually glad the movie skipped that stuff.  Seeing Currie have her virginity forcibly taken by her sister’s scumbag (older) ex-boyfriend and later being kidnapped, beaten and raped over several days, was not something I cared to see onscreen.  With stuff like that in one’s life, the drug abuse seems inevitable.

It helps to know that everyone eventually came out OK on the other side. 
The actresses with their real life doppelgangers.  That’s a lot of hotness, at any age.

18 comments:

  1. You shouldda married her no matter where she shops.

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  2. I'm surprised that Kristen Stewart did so well. She didn't impress me all that much with her 'fine' acting skills in the Twilight series. But then again, she did get better with each one...

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  3. I've never really seen her in anything before, so I don't have much to compare her to. But Joan, I know well. She was outstanding. She had every mannerism, and just her whole aura, down cold.

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  4. I'm glad to hear Kristin Stewart and Dakota Fanning nailed this one. Interestingly, I had fewer doubts about Stewart than I did about Fanning (I didn't know if she could convincingly pull off Currie's badassery). Can't wait to see it.

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  5. The thing is, Currie wasn't nearly the badass the others were. She had a certain vulnerability, and that's what Fanning captured.

    Her father was a well-meaning alcoholic. Her mother ran off to Indonesia to get married and dumped her kids with Grandma. The manager was a self-serving dominator that manipulated the system to enrich himself and leave the band grasping for pennies.

    Currie was starved for mentoring and guidance and got zippo. It's no wonder that drugs became her refuge.

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  6. Oh thanks a lot fucker!

    I already have like 10 books on my reading list! Yep they're just sitting on my shelf collecting dust, now I get to add another one!!!

    I have a hard time picturing Dakota Fanning as a badass... I really like her. But I'm just have a mental block!

    I can't WAIT now asshole!

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  7. Once you dig into it, CB, you won't be able to put it down. Best to just block out a couple of hours and knock it out.

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  8. Wow! That is some in depth research! I am also looking forward to seeing that movie. I am not a fan of Kristen Stewart but I have heard that she does an amazing job as Joan Jett. Thanks for checking me out too! I will also be back!

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  9. Welcome, Blogette!

    Just don't be misled... I don't do that much research on everything I write about. I usually make shit up.

    But when it comes to Joan Jett, (aka "My Queen") I'm more than willing to put in the work.

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  10. The title of your post threw me off. I thought you were going to pan it. But, with a review like this, I'm gonna have to put this in my Netlix cue.

    Now I'm waiting for someone to do a Fleetwood Mac movie. How they remained so productive while they were destroying each other's personal lives.

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  11. Sorry, Bagger...
    It's just that I never pass up a chance to drop a Monty Python reference.

    You're right... The Mac story would make a GREAT movie.

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  12. I know how much you love Joan Jett, so that's high praise. I'll have to go check it out.

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  13. Can't wait to see this....as soon as I saw the trailer, I turned to Chilla and said "we are seeing this!"

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  14. Guy,
    That’s the thing. I feel uniquely qualified to judge the accuracy of her performance, based on my long history w/ Ms. Jett. Stewart nailed Joan the way Meryl Streep nailed Julia Child.

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  15. Wormy,
    You’ll have to be sure to let me know what you think of it…

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  16. Want to see! It looks amazing. Plus, I have to be able to reference cool rocker chicks for my 3yo, who seems to be developing into one herself. Must find a way around the sexual abuse and drugs, however. Hmm. Let's hope raising her right will help with that, while still giving her cool chops (guitar, drum, whatever).

    I probably won't get to see it in the theater (the idea is laughable), but I'll definitely check it out on DVD.

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  17. RPM,
    As I mentioned in earlier comments, Currie (the hardest drug user) had severe abandonment issues and turned to drugs. I know that your baby will not have any such problem.

    Nor will she face what Joan did, when her first guitar “teacher” told her that girls can’t play electric guitar. (to which Joan turned up her amp and banged away!)

    'Girl Power, baby!

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