runnin’ away

Three weeks ago, I went to the opening night showing of The Runaways, a biopic that tells a story about Joan Jett’s first band, touted in the film as the first all-girl rock band. As the closing credits rolled, I have to admit I felt giddy. I hate to sound too Spice Girls, but there was something so empowering about seeing an hour and a half of girls rocking out on the big screen.

I didn’t really want to hear it when my fellow movie-goers mentioned the weak plot points or the fact that Dakota Fanning is barely 16 (!) and spends a good portion of the movie wearing a pink lingerie ensemble. I wanted to revel in the fact that I had just seen a movie with a bunch of strong, queer-ish, female characters playing instruments and being bad-asses.

Alas, time has passed and I am forced to be of two minds about the movie. I’m still enamored by Kristen Stuart’s brooding take on Joan Jett, even if it does seem to be only a slight variation on her character in Adventureland, and maybe even her actual personality, if her presence at the Oscars is any indication. The opening scene, where Cherie Curie gets her first period all over the sidewalk in front of the Pup ‘n Fries where her sister works, is a graphic and awesome moment. I think it is amazing that the major relationships in the film are between women (both friendships and lover-ships), not between men and women.  I love a good hetero-romance, for sure, but it is nice to see women becoming involved with music on-screen for the love of it, and not as a way to get a guy.

There are some problems, though. These ladies are sexy. Really, really sexy, and really, really young. That is uncomfortable for everyone. Also, the film falls hard into familiar tropes about girls in bands. It really does feel like an episode of Behind the Music, a show I have been known to enjoy but don’t want to pay $12 to see reenacted on the big screen.

That said, the best things about The Runaways are better than the worst. It is fun to watch and it makes you want to be in a band. There are fun musical moments and awesome feminist moments (ie when Joan Jett/Kristen Stuart pees on a jerky guy’s guitar). And maybe you will end up having a spice girls moment at the end. Girl Power!

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