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I was fortunate to get a sneaky preview of The Runaways, so I thought I’d put it to good use, and write something about it. Unfortunately, there’s really not all that much to write about.

I don’t know how much everybody knows about the story of The Runaways, I might have been the only person nodding sagely and pretending to be intrigued when the concept of this film was first bandied about last year. Perhaps everyone else meant it when they said “Hmm, Joan Jett? Ah yes, how wonderful that she’s finally getting the biopic-shaped recognition she deserves…” and I was the only one scanning Wikipedia for reasons to be interested. Anyway, I did become interested, and I was truly looking forward to the tale of angry, disaffected young things, trading their humdrum lives for guitars, pills and slutty outfits.

Sadly, this was a case of the anticipation being better than the film. From the beginning, we are pelted with the themes of experimentation, transition, gender and exploitation, and it is dull. The trials and tribulations of young girls aren’t inherently interesting, even if the stakes are slightly higher than an episode of Skins. The whole film hinges on us already knowing that Joan Jett and Cherie Currie were the bestest of friends and already thinking they’re talented musicians, because in the hundred or so minutes it runs for, there is nothing to demonstrate either of those things. The longest conversation between the two girls is a minute or so long and even that is mostly taken up by Dakota Fanning’s silent pleas that Kristen Stewart just do some acting, yeh?

Poor little Dakota, this was her break out film. She was going to be a grown-up actress and show everybody that she’s not just a wind-up acting doll. She was clearly willing to do almost anything to make the shift into adult acting, including quite literally, sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. And then they cast her opposite Kristen Stewart. There is little point getting into a Twilight argument, Stewart’s problem goes beyond the vampires. In short, she’s repulsive to watch on screen. In the truest sense of the word, as in she repels the audience. She is sullen, surly and arrogant, in the worst possible way. There is nothing endearing or warm about her, she is utterly soulless and then, she appears on screen, sticks out her chin, mumbles her lines and we are expected to find her mysterious and charming. Well, no. Shan’t. On the other hand, Dakota Fanning is admirable in her attempt to give the film some life. Her vulnerability fights with her anger and disillusionment in an interesting and almost moving way, and Cherie Currie’s story is ultimately the much more engaging for it.

The clothes are a bit of a mixed bag really. Dakota Fanning is dressed in her miniscule corsets, Kristen Stewart is customizing band t-shirts, and it all feels so contrived. Photos from the original Runaways days show that the designer has done a sterling job of recreating their looks, but the girls just don’t live up to them. We’re not given enough of their personalities to believe that they have created their styles themselves and yet minutes (believe me, you’ll be counting every single one) are spent watching them snip away at t-shirts and their hair and their dignity.

The original Runaways minus Joan

It’s a shame really, because there is a good story in there, but they just missed it. Instead of focusing on the friendship, the characters, or god forbid, the music, they latched on to the subplot of the over-sexed, unchaperoned, too-much-too-fast blah blah blah children. The problem with that is that stripped of the personalities, it has about enough substance to fill a shocking anecdote. “Can you believe those girls started a band, got sent on tour to Japan on their own, and then came home?”, “Which girls?, “Just some girls.”, “Oh…”

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