SUNDANCE 2010

Alex's Sundance Review: Floria Sigismondi's The Runaways

by
January 25, 2010

The Runaways Review

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

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  • Cineprog
    The Runerways did look Rubbish when I watched the trailer a few weeks ago, I don't like Kristen Stewart one little bit her roles like Twilight put me off. It's another power chick movie to me appeals to woman power (load of Rubbish would not spend my money on watching it.)
  • Michael M.
    Considering your Top Ten --to get a notion of the movies you seemingly prefer-- you might have been just the 'wrong guy' to review 'such sort' of a movie?! The privilege of actually being on the spot in Park City on behalf of a movie site --for the purpose of connecting potential movie goers to new films, I assume-- should lead to something more elaborate. Instead, it reads more of a rant on the director Sigismondi than a factual review. You're not referencing Cherie Curry's autobiographical 'Neon Angel', the movie is primarily based on, telling her turbulent life in the fast lane, which could be a hint on the movie's pacing. And, precisely because the movie finally focuses mainly on three characters, it should be nothing but appropriate to spare a few words on the performance of their impersonators Shannon, Stewart and Fanning... Might be, the movie really sucks. On the other hand, there will be a crowd to watch (and like?) 'The Runaways' nonetheless. - Movie reviews should be of sufficient substance to address those viewers, too. Michael M., Germany (put on hold up to the DVD release) P.S. And another thing... What about 'spiders on LSD'? As I know, they are --especially when on LSD-- creating nets of absolute perfection! Is it that, what you de facto are referring to when quoting Thomas Townend? - Is it he who misses the point, is it you, both of you...? Or is just my lacking sense of English language?
  • Camila
    Who are you, Perez Hilton? Kristen Stewart hate too much? I can understand the fact you didn't enjoy the movie, but this is supposed to be a review, not an article bashing the director and the actors. If you didn't like the movie is OK, i've just seen many other reviews saying how good 'The Runaways' was and what great perfomances it had that it makes me think you have something against the director of the movie.
  • Andrew
    The weak direction I agree with, but I wish you touched more on the quality of the acting since that's what blew me away when watching this movie yesterday - I thought it made up for the weak direction. My mother's an avid Joan Jett fan so naturally I've been exposed to almost everything JJ and I was honestly was not expecting much from Kristen, I was actually expecting to be greatly disappointed having only seen her in 'Twilight', but after seeing this movie... wow; I can't wait to check out 'Welcome To The Riley's' soon; the 'Twilight' franchise does not deserve her at all. By the way, Alia Shawkat doesn't have any lines because she is the only one in the band that was fictionalized due to the amount of bassists the band had.
  • casey
    WTF? What kind of a review was that. There was no mention of the main performances just a big hissy fit at the director. Maybe you might want to edit it a little to include what professional reviewers are supposed to do? Btw, ive been scouring the net and yours is by far the most pointless review about this movie ... which i must add has had mainly terrific reviews from other critics and general public.. hmmm
  • Jimmy Love
    Well I guess she'd be perfect to take on spiderman then huh
  • mcduck
    this review makes me wanna runaway lolololololololollolololololololololololololoooololololololololololololololol
  • Dave Lister. J.M.C.
    All of the responders so far seem to be suffering, from Shoot the Messenger Disease. Maybe the reason Alex didn't further expound on the film is because the film didn't provide adequate material, for a more in-depth discussion. Bio-pics have a lot of factual ground to cover. Therein lies the problem. Even though the band only lasted four years, it's still a long enough time to have to leave out certain developments, for the sake of run time. Fans of the band and its' individual members know enough as fans to fill in any informational gaps; but if you're not familiar, with the artists, a film like this should provide some of that. It sounds to me like this review was based on the merits of the film, not on those of the band or its' members.
  • Xerxex
    So Alex did Stewart and Fanning give a good performance? I'm still fans of the two actresses, and if it is at least worth watching the movie for them then I'll check it out.
  • SuicidalOptimist
    In before "THIS IS MY MOVIE BLOG AND I CAN WRITE WHAT AND HOW I WANT! If you don't like it you can geeeaaat aaaoooout!"
  • M
    Wow, out of the 4 reviews I have read, you are the only one who don't seem to like it. Truthfully it isn't my type of movie so I wasn't going to see it anyway, but again everyone has their taste, the others liked it you don't. That's life, those who are hating on him for not liking it, grow up, not everyone is going to like it. How was the acting in the movie though? I agree with others who would have like you talking about the performances.
  • Xerxex
    okay I'll try this again, how did Stewart and Fanning do in the film?
  • stacey
    I was expecting Kristen to expand on her acting chops, but it seems at this point she is still a one trick pony. Dakota on the other hand has lost her little girl cuteness and along with it some of her acting ability it seems. Some child actors just don't transisition well to mature roles, maybe in time she will, only time will tell. Michael Shannon did an adequate job portraying Fowley, who if he was half that weird back then, was one sick puppy. The concert scenes were captivating although the rest of the story was not so much. Instead of being called The Runaways ( as it barely showed the other band members) Instead it could have been called " Joanie loves Cherie ' ala the old Joanie loves Chachi TV show!
  • Shannon S
    I hate to jump on the bandwagon of "shooting the messenger," but there's not a lot to shoot at when there isn't much of a message. Okay, we get a glimpse into the directing & writing... But what about the acting? Does Kristen Stewart pull off carrying a heavy role well? How is Dakota? Much like the film seemed to do for you, your review has left me confused, disappointed, & wanting rewrites!
  • Joseph H.
    This looks awful. Kristin Steward guarantees it will be awfuller though.
  • jake
    Actually when you see the movie you may see that he was trying to let the director take the blame and not put down the actors. I am not a movie critic the only reason I have seen movies at the festival for the last three years is because my uncle is a big vendor and gets free tickets. I went to see this with my mother who was excited about it because The Runaways were part of her youth. I had no expectations at all! Dakota Fanning seemed to do a good job but the movie is very dispersing so you don't really work up a closeness with any of the characters except the manager. (He's over the top and what you think he would need to be like) Kirsten seemed to pull of the hard edgy lesbian part as far as looks go. When they sang you are never really convinced that they are the band. I read in another interview that when Kirsten was doing the concert scenes Joan would yell at her to f___k the guitar and Kirsten liked it when Joan would tell her to do that so she would push herself into the guitar. Keep that in mind when you watch the movie because it seems that's all she does. I don't know what The Runaways sound like. I am not a huge Miley Cyrus fan but that's what Kirsten sounds like but weaker. My mom left the movie disappointed and said it was a waste of time.
  • Celia
    I completely disagree with this review. I'm not suffering with "shoot the messenger" disease, because I've already seen the movie and it was phenomenal. Even though the bella role has been stuck onto Kristen in the minds of many people, she still manages a fantastic attempt at Joan Jett, and 75% of the time she convinced me. Not the best acting ever, but a good transition from teenage audience. Also, the movie was really raw and kept me on the edge of my seat. My emotions were heightened throughout the whole thing. When the showing was over, everyone in the movie theater was saying the exact same thing - " it kept me at the edge of my seat". And to the comment about the film only being enjoyable to women that grew up at the time. I'm in my early 20's, had never listened to the Runaways music, and still loved the film. No trip down memory lane for me, just the chance to watch the screening of an amazing movie. On the subject of Dakota, she was amazing in this role. Although, I don't know how they were allowed to let her film and act out some of the things that she did......] All in all an incredible experience.
  • Crump's Brother
    I want see the film opening night, I could careless what a critic says. Been a fan of the band for a long time. I'm not expecting a 5 star classic, but it should be very good. Cant wait til people get over this Twilight shit!
  • First off, I appreciate your stab at reviewing the film. But the attempt fell flat as soon as I got a whiff of questionable views you hold. You said "I have a feeling that women will enjoy The Runaways a lot more than I did," then went on to say, "But for me, I was completely unimpressed with Floria Sigismondi's inability to handle the characters, the story, or the film at all." (Siiiiiiiiiiiigh.) So let me get this straight, women in your view can are impressed with a film when the director has an inability to handle characters, stories and the film itself? This is a very disturbing to peek into you. I'm not sure how old you are or what your life experiences have been, but many audiences, women included, appreciate those things. In fact, I read reviews quite a bit, and audiences are incredibly perceptive about what works concerning the structure and execution of a film or not, women included. Actually, MANY women included. Second, it seems to me that you sort of hover over the material. This is a very general review, with lots of opinion but not much content. I mean what in your view, specifically, was wrong with the script? How did it fail to craft a comprehensive story? What felt half-assed? Then you say she didn't put any care in her direction, another sweeping general statement. Seems to me, you matched her by not caring about your review. It didn't look that great except for the concert scenes? Look that great? Nothing about the actors performances, the ending, the beginning, the mood, the theme, the aha or lack thereof? Finally, you end with "I don't have much else good to say about The Runaways," but this review was so lazy I wonder if you have anything good to say about any film (good equaling in-depth).
  • boss
    @Tanyeno Instead of attacking the author of this article you should read what he said. He explained the weak spot of the script (too many concert scenes and nothing else) and the way it was portrayed. What should someone do if he/she doesn't know the history of Runaways. Not everyone is a crazy Kristen Stewart fan and are just watching it because of her.
  • Dur
    I think it's fantastic that Floria Sigismondi had the balls to write and direct a feature film. It is a great achievement regardless of what anyone thinks of the film itself. I think it's significant that the film's producers wanted her, and had confidence in her ability and style. Rock and roll isn't only dead, it's really old fashioned. If you watch Floria's music videos and look at her still photographs you can see immediately that she's way way beyond the subject matter she had to work with in The Runaways. Some studio should hire Floria to direct a horror movie!
  • Phantomchild
    Wow! I finally saw The Runaways movie, and I was horrified. First let me say what was right about it. The leads did a reasonably good job with what they were given as far as script and direction. I guess that is where it ends for me though. Now if they had kept the title "Neon Angels: The Cherie Currie Story", I probably would have enjoyed it more, or at least accepted it for the Cherie Currie love fest that it was, with just enough focus on Joan to get her and her fans' backing and support (Joan and Kenny Laguna were both involved in the movie) Sadly, a lot of important details were left out of the film. Although, Joan and Sandy always claimed the band as their "baby", Sandy was clearly the originator (barely alluded to in the film when Kim introduces Joan to Sandy who was already in place as the drummer). It also totally disregards Michael Steele, as another founder (Later of the Bangles), nor does it give credit to the other girls that were in the band. And to not even mention Jackie Fox? Yes there were several bassists, but Jackie was the main one during that time period, making it on the first 3 albums (the same ones that Cherie was on). As for the personal relationships, they were less than kissy-kissy. Lita and Cherie's knock-down, drag out fights are famous, as is the fact that Cherie spent a lot of time putting make-up to cover her bruises. It also tends to have amnesia when it comes to one of the main reasons for their break-up, which was the disagreements on musical direction. Punk, rock, or pop? For that matter, it mentions Joan's solo career (although it jumps to "I Love Rock 'N' Roll" and totally negates Bad Reputation) but does not even mention Cherie and Marie's solo album. In the follow-up credits, it mentions Foxes, but not The Twilight Zone Movie (Cherie was the upstairs sister with no mouth ) All in all, it seemed like a horrible waste of time and was like sitting down to a steak dinner and being served cotton candy. If you really want to see what the Runaways were about, check out Edgeplay: A Film About The Runaways, which was done by Vicky Tischler Blue (Bassist after Cherie left) and actually features the original girls Cherie, Jackie, Sandy (R.I.P. my friend), minus Joan. You get a much better feel for the real experiences of these women. Lastly, they were not the first all girl band (among others, Goldie and the Gingerbreads "Fanny" with Suzi Quatro who both had major record deals prior to the Runaways) but the were the most influential, and in my opinion, the greatest.

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