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Douglas Pratt

By Douglas Pratt

DVD Geek: The Runaways

Not as tightly composed or as carefully devised as the most popular rock biography films, The Runaways, from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, is nevertheless a satisfying production. It tells the story of one of the earliest all-female, hard rocking bands, which got started in the mid-Seventies with Joan Jett. Later, the band broke up and Jett set off on her own to even greater fame, but her collaboration with pinup singer Cherie Currie (Lita Ford was also in the band) in the title group led the way for everything that followed. Ultimately, Currie could not handle the pressure of success, and so the 107-minute feature winds down uncomfortably in its final act, which may have turned some viewers off, but the essence of how the band got their start and what it was like for them as things began coming together (they were only fifteen or so at the beginning), as well as the emotional bonds that were created and broken as a result, is effectively explored, and backed up by good performances and terrific music. Kristen Stewart plays Jett, but the center of the film is Dakota Fanning, as Currie. In building what is already a remarkable acting career, Fanning’s conversion into Currie is amazing, as much for the range she brings to the specific part (unlike so many portraits of flawed singing stars, she doesn’t start out over the edge already, rather, she makes a detailed and believable transition) as for the utter dissimilarity to other roles she has played. Additionally, the 2010 film cleverly mixes the vocals of Stewart and Fanning, for some of the performance sequences, with the real band’s recordings, for background music and such, and it is a good enough match to support the story, which is all that they need it to do.

The picture is presented in letterboxed format only, with an aspect ratio of about 2.35:1 and an accommodation for enhanced 16:9 playback. The color transfer is okay, with the cinematography mixing some bright, solidly colored sequences (the opening has a cute ‘Seventies’ street scene) with deliberately murkier images as the characters’ various substance abuse extravagances start to have their effects. The 5.1-channel Dolby Digital track has a limited rear channel presence, but the strongest musical passages sound terrific. There are optional English subtitles, a decent 2-minute promotional piece, and a very worthwhile 16-minute production featurette. Finally, Stewart, Fanning and Jett herself supply a commentary track. Jett points out the dramatic licenses the film takes and what was really going on at various points in time, while Stewart and Fanning talk about the challenges they faced in taking on the parts. The talk rates very high in basic star appeal, but beyond that, it is also a reasonably informative supplement that enlightens the viewer about the dynamics of the drama and the significance of the accomplishments it is depicting.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon