Sundance Review: Kristen Stewart And Dakota Fanning’s ‘Runaways’

Sex, drugs, rock n’ roll and the girls from “Twilight”?!? Don’t have too big a laugh though because Kristen Stewart and most especially Dakota Fanning rock the house with the best of them in “The Runaways,” an electrifying if formulaic account of the brief rise and fall of the titular band.

Forget the executive producer credit for Joan Jett, the true telling credit for the film is where director Floria Sigismondi found her source material–lead singer Cherie Currie’s memoir.

Indeed, “The Runaways” is owned and just about swallowed up by Fanning’s riveting portrayal of the singer (not too dissimilar from the way Currie overwhelmed the group). First glimpsed as a teen literally transforming into a woman, this is the performance that seems sure to launch Fanning into a new thrilling phase of her career. From a sulking broodish David Bowie enthusiast to a howling rock goddess Fanning sells sells sells. I’d watch that band. Hells yeah.

Stewart as Joan Jett physically embodies the role and curses and growls as the part demands. It’s Jett of course who first launches the band under the manic watchful eye of Michael Shannon’s Kim Fowley. But the film find’s its legs and central mesmerizing performance when Fanning’s Cherie auditions for the band in a crappy trailer. Shannon’s Fowley knows he’s hit paydirt with Currie’s look but he needs to coax the sex vixen out of her. Watch in awe as in the space of a few moments the band’s signature “Cherry Bomb” is created and Fanning transforms into the front woman she’s destined to be. It’s the scene of the movie.

Speaking of Shannon, attention must be paid to him here (as it should in all of his work)–Fowley is at once a “SNL” caricature of a monstrous manager and a recognizable fascinating human creature. Shannon turns it up to 11 for the role and it works. Who else could go toe to toe with these women?