"Jailbait." What better way to describe Dakota Fanning in The Runaways, in which she plays sexy young starlet Cherie Currie opposite Kristen Stewart, who plays Joan Jett. Both onscreen and in real life, the young actress has suddenly transformed from eerily good child actor to can't-wait-til-she's-eighteen sex symbol (for creepy perverted men, not me - of course). In recent years, Fanning has played a sexed-up 13-year old in the superhero flick Push, a torture-loving villain in Twilight (alongside Stewart) and now a drug-crazed singer. All audiences should be eager to see what she, and Stewart, do next.
The Twilight girls both deliver fine performances in The Runaways, an edgy drama that stands at stark contrast to the preteen fluff Stewart and Fanning are currently associated with. The talented actors appear to be relieved they are in a film with some substance for a change, and they give it their all. Both performances are fierce and energetic, and Stewart especially looks at home in this late 70's biopic (last time we saw her in the past was the coming-of-age tale Adventureland and, oh, Into the Wild).
The movie itself is surprisingly good, too, its early 2010 release deceiving considering we'd usually see such a film in latter months. Director Floria Sigismondi injects the proper amount of rebellion into the film given its subject matter, defying the look and feel of other musical biopics we've seen in recent years.
Still, The Runaways never escapes what it is: a musical biopic, and just like any other it is confined to the all-too-common plotting of the person(s) of interest: young phenom is found, becomes popular and then throws away everything with drugs. Sigismondi does her best to keep The Runaways unique, but once the drug use comes into play, the movie begins to look like so many others.
The Runaways features strong performances and aggressive direction from newcomer Sigismondi, but it is a victim of its own story (which is based on an autobiography by Cherie Currie). As interesting as it is, the movie never dives deep enough into the characters to overcome this, and as a result it is a worthy but merely passable entry. Recommended for fans of the band and Twihards (so they can see what quality filmmaking and performances look like), but no one else.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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