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“Stewart rocks.”

In today’s world of spoon fed pop culture where American Idol can turn anyone into a mega superstar regardless of talent, The Runaways shows the grittier side of early rock and roll. Joan Jett, Lita Ford, and Sandy West started their journey in the 1975 all girl rock band led by a cherry bomb of a lead singer named Cherie Currie. They blew up quick and burnt out fast but paved the way for all non-male rockers who wanted to strap on a guitar and make a musical statement. It is a hard film to watch in places but the two female leads make it a powerhouse of a rock flick.

The story blazes through the four year history of the band. Joan Jett (Kristen Stewart) is a girl living in a male dominated world of electric guitars. When record producer Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon) hooks her up with 15 year old Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning) they create a phenom that is a mix of rebellion, sexuality and exploitation. The 70’s where a wild time with little restraint. These girls went full speed ahead and were done at an age when many are just getting started.

This film holds nothing back in its portrayal of the down and dirty industry that was rock and roll in the early stages. Though Fanning does a superb job it is at times difficult to view her in a role that is so different than the ones we have watched her grow up playing. If she wanted to show the world that she is an amazing actress in spite of the role, this may very well do it. She recreates Currie in dress, mannerisms and attitude while still reflecting the fact that both were such young women in their respected careers.

The most amazing piece to watch is Kristen Stewart as rock and roll loving, Joan Jett. The transformation is uncanny and most who only know her from the Twilight Series will wonder how the timid Bella could embody such a larger than life personality. Jett is one of the best known former Runaways so it was important for Stewart to get it right. And she does. Not just the look and mannerisms but also the way she holds herself in the band realm. She looked confident and at ease with a guitar which was another selling point of her performance. And while we are on the subject of strong performances, Shannon is so good as Kim Fowley that you will feel like bathing after every scene he is in.

The Runaways is rated R for language, drug use and sexual content Рall involving teens. This is an adult film and even though the musical journey of these young women should be told, watching it unfold in unapologetic style will not be for everyone. The term sex, drugs and rock-n-roll is not just a clich̩. It was a way of life for many. Those who love music history will appreciate watching what they went through in their moment of fame, and, as I mentioned, it is worth the price of admission to see Stewart and Fanning bring these icons to light. But others will find the grit and sensationalism too much. Parents would be advised to sway their teens away from this one. If your young, wanna be rockstar wants the facts there is plenty of online documentation. As for me, I gave it 3.75 out of 5 chord progressions. Strong acting and good representation of the period made it above board and one I would recommend. But only to the right audience and you know who you are. So says Matt Mungle.

Matt Mungle (matt@mungleshow.com)

(3.75 out of 5)

Review copyright 2010 Mungleshow Productions. Used by Permission.

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