APPARENTLY THERE WERE ONLY TWO WOMEN IN THE RUNAWAYS
I saw The Runaways this weekend. (Yes, I’m aware they weren’t a metal band, but whatever.) For roughly half the movie, director Floria Sigismondi manages to steer clear of all the typical rock biopic clichés and make a movie that’s insightful and fun and interesting; then it devolves into a pretty typical anti-drug PSA and I kinda checked-out. Still, it’s probably one of the better movies playing this crap-filled season.
One thing that did kinda rub me the wrong way, though, was that to watch the film, you’d think that Cherie Currie and Joan Jett (respectively played by Twatlight alum Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart) were really the only members of The Runaways.
Not that I doubt the importance of Jett and Curie’s respective contributions to the band – based on Jett’s solo career, it should be especially apparent how central she was to her previous band’s creative success – but there were three other ladies hanging around at all times, right? I’m not imagining that, am I?
Sandy West (here played by Stella Maeve) gets to do a little here and there, which is to say, she gets to play Jett’s sidekick in any scenes that don’t feature Curie. Lita Ford is played by Scout Taylor-Compton, who metal fans will recognize as “Laurie Strode” from Rob Zombie’s awful Halloween movies. You can count the number of lines she has on two hands, and they’re all in the service of making it seem like Ford was pretty much a heinous bitch at all times. Now, I’m no Lita Ford fan, and for all I know she is pretty bitchy, but she must have some other side to her personality, right? And she did play lead guitar, didn’t she? She was never replaced, even after Currie quit the band – so Jett and company couldn’t have hated her that much. So why does this movie make her out to be the Irma Grese of rock music?
Meanwhile, Arrested Development‘s Alia Shawkat plays the bassist, “Robin.” As far as I know, The Runaways never had a bass player, or any member, named Robin. If the women who did play bass in the band were deemed unimportant and then folded into one character for the sake of simplicity, well, I guess I understand that – but poor Shawkat literally has no lines. Not a single one. And between AD and her role in last year’s Whip It, she’s a pretty recognizable face. Did all of her dialogue end up on the cutting room floor, or does Shawkat need to fire her agent?
To add injury to insult, a coda at the end of the film tells the audience what became of Currie, Jett and their legendary producer, Kim Fowley (brilliantly portrayed by the always-zany Michael Shannon), but makes no mention of Ford’s successful solo career, or the fact that West passed away from cancer in 2006. Very nice.
Again, I don’t mean to take away from how important Jett and Curie were to The Runaways. But pretending that Ford, West, and “Robin” contributed absolutely nothing whatsoever seems like making a movie about Metallica and giving the appearance that Hetfield and Ulrich did everything and Burton and Hammett just nodded happily and went along with it. (Actually, in Hammett’s case, that might be true.) It would have been nice to see the other ladies get a scene or two in the spotlight. The movie’s under two hours, so it’s not like the running time couldn’t handle it.
In conclusion and apropos of nothing, here’s something to make this article a little more metal-friendly. Sigismondi, like so many feature directors these days, got her start making music videos… here’s one you probably recognize: