Post by on May 13, 2010 12:46:10 GMT -5
Distributed by: Apparition
Written by: Floria Sigismondi
Reviewed by: Bucky
It was sometime in the Winter of 1975/76, myself & about 5 other 14 year old kids are crammed into my Father’s 1971 white Ford on our way to one of our weekly Thursday night ice hockey practices. The car only had an AM radio & at the time I didn’t even know about FM radio but I did love listening to the top 40 AM radio hits on WKBW 1620AM. Anyway, the station was cranking out tunes such as “He Don’t Love You” by Tony Orlando & Dawn, “Rubberband Man” by the Spinners, & “Island Girl” by Elton John when all of a sudden a thumping bassline started up & the crack of drums kicked in.
A girl’s voice belted out “Can’t Stay at Home Can’t Stay in School…” followed by “Hello Daddy Hello Mom…I’m your Ch Ch Ch Ch Ch Ch CHERRY BOMB!!!” Everyone in the car looked at each other wondering if this was some kind of joke played by the DJ as this was like nothing any of us had ever heard. I wasn’t heavy into music back then so all I knew was that the tune was by a group called the Runaways.
Fast Forward almost 35 years later & in the month of April 2010 a movie about the Runaways was set to debut. There had been quite a buzz going around about the movie & the previous month had releases of a 2 CD anthology set of all 4 of their Mercury Records albums, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts 2 CD anthology titled ‘Greatest Hits’ which also featured Jett reworking a few Runaways tunes with the Blackhearts, The soundtrack for the movie ‘The Runaways’, a 256 page book on Joan Jett titled ‘Joan Jett’ which is full of great photos, & finally a book titled ‘Neon Angel: Memoir of a Runaway’ written by lead singer Cherie Currie. This book is what the movie is loosely based on & this book is an updated version of another version which was released in the late 80’s.
The movie starred Dakota Fanning as Cherie Currie & Kristin Stewart as Joan Jett both were great in their roles especially Stewart who I actually believed was Joan Jett during the movie. Actor Michael Shannon did a great job as the Runaways manager Kim Fowley who was a real bastard to the young girls & actress Scout Taylor-Compton looked a lot like a young Lita Ford & also did a fine job in her limited role. According to various interviews with Lita Ford she was only offered around $1500 for her life story for the movie by Joan Jett’s manager Kenny Laguna which she declined. There has been bad blood between Ford & Laguna for years. Bassist Jackie Fox who was with the band through the first 3 Mercury albums was completely written out of the movie & replaced by a fictitious bass player who they gave the name Robin Robbins. The movie starts off with Currie having her first period while outside with her twin sister Marie waiting for a ride. Her sister takes off her underwear & gives it to Cherie (why they felt the need for this to open the movie I’ll never know). We then see Joan Jett trying on black leather pants & a leather jacket in the dressing room of a clothing shop. She pulled her original pair of pants on over the leather pants, walked out the dressing room door, & proceeded to the counter. She said she’d take the jacket & dumped a bag of change on the counter telling the clerk that it’s all there. The clerk asked if there was anything else & pointed to the “Shoplifters will be Prosecuted” sign. Jett took off like a bat out of hell out the door as the clerk called the cops. She met up with a girl around the corner & the two got high. While that’s going on they cut back to Cherie cutting her hair & applying make-up to look like David Bowie from his ‘Aladdin Sane’ album cover in preparation for a talent show at her High School which she ended up winning. The next scene has Jett taking guitar lessons & her teacher is trying to teach her how to play “On Top of Old Smokey” which Jett hates so she plays along & makes up her own rude lyrics & then strikes a power chord.
Joan is with a guy outside of a popular teen club (Rodney Bingenheimer’s English Disco) & just as they’re about to make out Joan notices Kim Fowley whom she rcognized from his musical accomplishments. She leaves her guy in the dust & rushes to Kim who’s kind of snobbish & rude at first but then Joan tells him she wants to start an all-girl band. Fowley yells out for drummer Sandy West, introduces them, tells them to jam together, & to call him back when they’ve got something. Eventually, the two female rockers are hooked up with Lita Ford, Robin Robbins & finally with Cherie Currie who Fowley discovered at the teen club. He tells her to learn a Suzi Quatro song for her audition. She learns the old Brenda Lee song “Fever” which Quatro covered. She showed up for rehearsal which was at a small disgusting filthy trailer & met the band. Right away Lita was not impressed. All of the girls were upset & pissed when they found out she picked “Fever”. At that point Kim & Joan sat down & wrote “Cherry Bomb” for Currie to audition to & the Runaways were born.
As the girls are hanging out at the mall drinking alcohol from a shampoo bottle Currie explains that her folks split up & her dad’s an alcoholic. They then cut to Cherie’s house where she’s excited about being in a band & after telling her sister she can’t wait to tell her mom. Her mom comes home with her boyfriend & before Cherie could tell her the news her mom tells them that they’re moving to Indonesia. Cherie & her sister decide to move in with their father, aunt, & grandmother.
The next day the band is at rehearsal & Fowley keeps verbally abusing the girls telling them they’re no good & that they’re dog shit. He then yells outside to bring it in & a bunch of kids come in & start launching garbage at the girls while they’re playing. The movie continues on at this pace with Fowley verbally abusing the girls & Cherie worrying about her family. The movie is great & while it sticks to the abusive stuff it does show the girls getting along & having some fun times despite Lita’s obvious hatred towards Currie. The live performances of the band are great as well & it is done so well that I really felt as if it was really the Runaways onstage. At one point in the movie drummer Sandy West is taught how to masturbate by Joan Jett as she’s taking a shower. Jett is in another room shouting to her to think of Scott Baio & Leif Garret. West says she doesn’t feel anything so Jett yells out Farrah & that does the trick. Currie hooks up with their road manager which pisses Jett off but Joan & Cherie do have quite an intense scene together during the Stooges “Now I Wanna be Your Dog”. All the hard work & abuse seemed to have paid off because Fowley did get them a contract with Mercury Records but by then alcohol, pills, & internal problems within the band were taking its toll on the girls. Fowley’s abuse even took a bizarre twist as he locked the girls in trailer & forced them to watch him have sex with a prostitute to teach them how to…
By now Currie was dressing in her corset & fishnets in concert during “Cherry Bomb” which did not set well with Lita & one day a risqué photo shoot was set up for Cherie by Fowley for a Japanese magazine. Currie knew how the band felt about her trying to be the star of the band & was worried about the photo shoot but Fowley lied & told her that all the others would also be photographed. The band tours Japan & is well accepted by the Japanese fans. Things seemed to be looking up for the band until Lita discovers stacks of the Japanese magazine featuring Currie & throws a fit as does Joan Jett. Afterwards Cherie is with their road manager & collapses in an elevator. She is rushed to the hospital & awakes with Joan Jett sitting at her side.
The tour ends & Cherie is back home to find her dad in worse shape than ever. She spots a bottle of pills on his night stand & takes a few. She then notices her sister standing in the doorway. The next day the band is burnt out in a recording studio. Currie is sitting reading a magazine & completely ignores her singing duties angering the rest of the band. The reason she was ignoring the recording was because in an article in the magazine she was reading Kim Fowley said that the best thing Cherie Currie could do is to hang herself. Lita could care less about the article she just wants to record & continues yelling at Cherie. Fowley walks in & explains that he said what he said for publicity. Currie had enough & quit the band. The movie goes on & has an interview with Fowley & then has Currie in a detox ward. The movie ends with Joan reaching her superstardom with “I Love Rock & Roll” & Cherie Currie working at a store folding linens. She has the radio on & Joan Jett is being interviewed, Cherie phones in to the radio station & the DJ welcomes her call & asks what she’s been doing. She said she tried acting for a while. Joan asks her how she’s been doing & she tells her that she’s not dead or in jail. The DJ says “I bet you have a lot to catch up on…” & there was silence. Finally Cherie said that she just wanted to say hi. Cherie’s work manager yells at her to get off the phone.
Definitely, a great movie but I would also recommend the documentary ‘Edgeplay’ which was released a few years back. It was a documentary on the Runaways made by Jackie Fox’s replacement Vicki Blue. The documentary is dark & features interviews with Fowley, Currie, Fox, Ford, West, Currie’s mom, & West’s mom. Unfortunately, Joan Jett wanted nothing to do with the movie.