Thursday, March 18, 2010

Exploding Girls

Where it begins: Teenagers Joan Jett (Kristen Stewart) and Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning) meet—where else?—in an L.A. club.

The Runaways
Written and directed by Floria Sigismondi
Starring Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning, and Michael Shannon

By Mary Lyn Maiscott

“Hello, Daddy / Hello, Mom / I’m your ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-cherry bomb!” With those words—half-talked, half-sung—the 16-year-old, bottle-blonde Cherie Currie introduced to the world a revolutionary kind of girl group, the Runaways. Her partner in grime and grit, Joan Jett, had started the band in 1975 with drummer Sandy West, under the demented aegis of Kim Fowley, a record producer whose idea of rock ’n’ roll was blood, guts, and sex. To Jett (who’d changed her name of Larkin) it was more—“It is my life,” she says to a disillusioned Currie after the Runaways have wowed the teens of Japan (a “Hello Sex Kitten” to rival the recently launched “Hello Kitty”).

The Runaways, executive-produced by Jett, starts off a little slowly setting things up—though the opening image is appropriately primal—but then gets nearly everything right: the clubs, the clothes, the songwriting, the drugs, the sex (especially a hallucinatory scene involving Currie and Jett). And the music. Both Kristen Stewart, as Jett, and Dakota Fanning (wasn’t she just yesterday a little girl?), as Currie, look and sound authentic when they hit the stage. Fanning even learned Currie’s signature wrapping-the-mic-around-the-leg move, as she demonstrated for Jimmy Fallon last night, though, judging from the video below, the real Currie was a bit more like a jaded kid you’d pass in the mall than the fresh-faced Fanning. Stewart, in black leather, brings to the role of Jett the right body type and the right attitude: a tough and slightly disinterested exterior that belies the fire inside that will turn Jett into one of rock’s greats.

With the Blackhearts, Jett, of course, went on to make such hard-driving hits as “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll”; Lita Ford—the Runaways’ lead guitarist, who gets short shrift in the film (perhaps because it’s based on Currie’s memoir, Neon Angel)—spent years raising kids on a Caribbean island before barreling back last year with Wicked Wonderland; and Cherie Currie, whose career was derailed by addiction, is today a ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-chainsaw artist! Just keep setting off those bombs, girls.

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