Alex's Sundance Review: Floria Sigismondi's The Runaways
by Alex Billington
January 25, 2010
I never would've thought I could dislike a movie about a badass rock band. I caught the world premiere of The Runaways last night and while it's a very loud and very energetic movie, it's not good at all. It felt very rushed, skipping over all the important moments of the band's creation and throwing in concert scene after concert scene and an occasional streets-of-LA moment. Former photographer Floria Sigismondi makes both her writing and directing debut with The Runaways and is unfortunately the weakest link in the film. She should stick with photography, because it seemed obvious that she doesn't know how to direct a feature.
The Runaways is a biopic of sorts about the infamous all-girl rock band from the 70's called The Runaways. The focus is mainly on lead guitarist Joan Jett (played by Kristen Stewart), lead singer Cherie Currie (played by Dakota Fanning), and their producer/manager Kim Fowley (played by Michael Shannon). The rest of the band is there, but the story is not really about them. In fact, Alia Shawkat (from "Arrested Development") who plays the band's bassist, doesn't even have a single line in the entire movie. But whatever, I guess, it's about The Runaways' story and their fame and their eventual downfall, even though they only lasted 4 years.
The problem is that Sigismondi really didn't put any care or concern into crafting a comprehensive story. Nor did she put any care or concern into directing. And despite her photography background, it didn't even look that great either (except for the concert scenes). I'm not sure if I thought it looked so bad because it was just a rough cut being shown at this festival or because I saw Derek Cianfrance's Blue Valentine right before this (and that was the most beautifully shot film I've seen in years). The best way to describe Sigismondi and her directing comes from Thomas Townend on Twitter: "Floria Sigismondi = good ol' fashioned music video director - with the structural sensibilities of a spider on LSD." I couldn't agree with Thomas more!
I have a feeling that women will enjoy The Runaways a lot more than I did and those who were alive at that time might be entertained by it simple because it'll be a trip down memory lane for them. But for me, I was completely unimpressed with Floria Sigismondi's inability to handle the characters, the story, or the film at all. And despite having a good time watching concert scenes, I don't have much else good to say about The Runaways. This was one of the first big let downs of Sundance for me and I was even looking forward to it.
Alex's Sundance Rating: 4 out of 10