Posts Tagged ‘Joan Jett’

DVD Geek: The Runaways

Monday, August 30th, 2010

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.