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    Review: The Runaways Pretty Much Rocks, Despite a Few Sour Notes

    Dakota Fanning, Kristen Stewart, The Runaways Runaway Productions

    Review in a Hurry: For everyone who has ever complained about the Twilight movies being too pro-abstinence, here are Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning as '70s teenage rock stars Joan Jett and Cherie Currie, who drink, screw, do drugs and rock out with their schlock out.

    The based-on-a-true-story, rock-star arc is entirely predictable, but the lead performances, along with Michael Shannon as eccentric mentor Kim Fowley, elevate the antics above average.

    The Bigger Picture: This movie about the first all-girl rock band wants it both ways: Yes, the Runaways were awesome, but there was also something more than a little inappropriate about putting teenage singer Currie onstage wearing little but a corset to belt out "Cherry Bomb." And 30 years later, there's still something inappropriate about putting teenage actor Fanning onstage doing the same.

    But the film doesn't spend time pondering such things, as former David Bowie/Marilyn Manson video director Floria Sigismondi prefers to revel in the superficial: At times, she seems more in love with period hairdos than anything else, and it needs to be said that blown-out, slo-mo shots of a person's dazed, drug-addled face as signifier for personal downfall is not just Rock Video 101, but David Lynch 101 as well.

    Despite all that, the actors make this work, and there is where Sigismondi shines—the recent The Yellow Handkerchief proves that not everybody can get a good performance out of Kristen Stewart, but she's solid here. (Also helpful, the real Jett served as producer to make sure the performance, including Stewart's guitar-playing and singing, was spot-on).

    Fanning...well, she's always been good. No surprise. But it's Michael Shannon—generally most recognizable for playing quiet psychopaths—who dominates the screen here as the flamboyant Fowley.

    Fans of '80s teen movies will want to keep an eye out for Fast Times at Ridgemont High's Robert Romanus as a dorky guitar teacher who gets nowhere when he tries to teach Joan Jett acoustic folk songs.

    The 180—a Second Opinion: Fans of Lita Ford—and of Halloween star Scout Taylor-Compton, who plays her in the film—are going to be extremely disappointed that the Runaway turned metal guitar goddess has been reduced onscreen to a handful of snarky comments and a scowl.

    (Originally published Fri., Mar. 19, 2010 @ 5:26 a.m)

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