Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning have Chemistry in “The Runaways”

The power of raw acid leaks through the speakers when “Cherry Bomb” starts to play and the crowd goes insane when they see Cherie Currie wearing red lingerie.  The Runaways were one of the first all-female rock bands and catapulted the careers of guitarists Joan Jett and Lita Ford into stardom.  The self-named biopic chronicles the band’s rise and fall and centers around the relationship between Jett and Currie. The film is based on Currie’s autobiography “Neon Angel.”  The film shows these two girls in their raw, primal forms. With Currie’s love for David Bowie and trouble fitting in to, more importantly, Jett’s struggle to play the electric guitar as a girl. As their lives unfold, so do the roots of female individuality and sexuality in music and the world.

This movie is gritty, rough, grimy and fantastic. The shots are clean, the music is tight and the acting is surprisingly smooth and worthwhile.
Dakota Fanning, as Currie, and Kristen Stewart, as Jett, have an unmatched chemistry on screen. The voices heard in the movie are actually Fanning’s and Stewart’s, which gives it a raw and completely real feeling. At first, Fanning sounds terrible when she auditions for the band, but when she puts on the sexy red outfit and performs in Japan on tour, an animal is unleashed.  This scene is strikingly the climax of the film, with a complete performance of “Cherry Bomb” and stunning visuals. Unfortunately, Fanning emanates a good-girl vibe, and lacks the harsh rock-and-roll edge Currie describes in her book.

Kristen Stewart, on the other hand, takes a pound of bricks and smashes all expectations in the face with her portrayal of Jett. Not only did she do the part justice, but sets the standard for future rock-and-roll biopics.  She captures the angst and emotion of the confused rock star and gets the voice just right. But, most importantly, she grips the rock-and-roll attitude and kicks it to the curb, which is proven when she urinates on a guy’s guitar for telling her she should be in the kitchen.

The final piece that brings the entire show together is manager Kim Fowley, played by Academy-Award nominee Michael Shannon (2009, for his supporting role in “Revolutionary Road”).  The slimy man constantly sneers and leers at the girls, egging them on and abusing them mentally and verbally. He jumps and screams and shouts when they mess up on stage, and makes sure to let them know that he’s the one with the money and power.

The one thing this film really lacks is true introspection. The minds of Jett and Currie are never fully pried open, or at least not enough to see what’s really bothering them.  They take it out on themselves with drugs, booze and sex, but there is never a moment, clean or drug-driven, of revelation where the curtains open and the true meaning of things start to unfold.  The girls were only sixteen when the band hit its pinnacle, but there is still a hidden truth behind The Runaways that the movie just doesn’t fully explore.