Sunday, 12 September 2010

REVIEW: The Runaways

Dakota Fanning is young for how long she's been around. That was going to be a joke but it became a statement. I'm fine with it.

Kristen Stewart's career is a funny thing. She's simultaneously an indie darling and a vitriolic hate figure. A talented actress who unfortunately gave one of the worst performances of the decade three times over, its by far the worst she's ever been or will ever be, but its the only performance that anyone has seen. That's a tough break. But anyone whose seen Into The Wild or Adventureland knows that when she gets to play in her socially maladjusted home turf, she can make quite the impression. She can't wear her emotions on her sleeve but she can bottle them up very effectively. And I've no doubt she'll have a long and prosperous career after Twilight. She may even win an Oscar someday. And The Runaways is the first step toward regaining her mojo back, in a film that was stronger then I was expecting, a quite artful (in look at least) exploration of how fame corrupts, not the most unique topic for a biopic about musicians, but hey its a limiting subject matter.

The movie, inevitably, is more about Cherie Currie and Joan Jett then the rest of The Runaways, and Stewart gives a good, if very self-conscious, performance as Jett. More impressive in a way though was Dakota Fanning, who had an equal point to prove with this film, having been struggling to find more successful adult material to establish herself as a more grown-up actress and not just the moppet from Uptown Girls. Fanning gives the much more layered and internal performance, given a great assist by director Floria Sigismondi's numerous longing close-ups, and may have finally found her footing as a genuine actress rather then just the moppet who acts like a bitch and gets everyone killed in War Of The Worlds. Kind of unexpected but I was very impressed by her in this movie. In fact its sort of a shame then, that this film about female empowerment (sort of) directed by a woman and starring several talented young actresses (they even hired Arrested Development's Alia Shawkat to stand around in the background as the bass player. I don't remember her having a line) gets entirely stolen by a man. In the only substantial male role no less. What an anti-climax. Because while Stewart and Fanning were off giving thoughtful, strong performances, in steps the vastly under-rated Michael Shannon to effortlessly blast them off the screen as band producer Kim Fowley. Shannon gives the kind of coked-up, wild eyed performance that its very difficult to get right and have it work for the film instead of against it, but Shannon nails it. Lending the film some much needed humor too, because to be honest it did lean toward the po-faced. Cast this guy in more movies. Seriously.

The Runaways is a very richly shot, well-acted biopic, and while it does undeniably hit all the familiar beats of these things, it does so with enough style and energy to pull it off. And more evidence to show that almost the entire cast of Twilight have long and rich careers ahead of them. Well except Taylor Lautner. Dude sucks.

Rating: 6/10

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