A Film4-backed short directed by Kibwe Tavares and starrnig Daniel Kaluuya
The trials and tribulations of the first all-female rock group The Runaways. Starring Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning
The Runaways isn't really the story of the first all-female rock group The Runaways. It's the story of singer Cherie Currie and founding member Joan Jett and their alternately flirtatious/fractious relationship, with the rest of the band barely featuring. And that's just fine - Currie and Jett make an entertaining screen pairing, and actors Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart are more charismatic here than in anything else to date, as they drink, snort, play and perform with giddy abandon. Really, how can you not love Joan Jett weeing on a guitar then slipping over in her own piss? It's Frank Spencer meets Sid Vicious.
The Runaways is also the story of how manager Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon, detestable and therefore perfect) shaped and manipulated the band, subjecting them to a torrent of verbal abuse and ripping them off financially, although this storyline is under-developed, passed over in favour of material that looks and sounds amazing while often not doing much to get under the skin of the characters. That said, director Floria Sigismondi sustains a vein of humour bubbling along underneath the cooler than thou visuals and it helps that the original group sounded decent - we're certainly not in Mariah Carey's Glitter territory.
Ultimately, the Runaways gets a lot right. It focuses on the girls themselves and not on their love interests, the performances are excellent and the live performances feel suitably live, not polished and dubbed. The film's great strength is in showing the sheer fun that the girls have to begin with, before the inevitable problems. This strength in the first half is the undoing of the second - like a rookie roadie put in charge of a wagon load of set-piece pyrotechnics, the film doesn't seem to know what to do with the ball of energy it has summoned up, and instead leaves it to fizzle out. We also battle the sense that we're not being told the whole story; there's definitely darker stuff they're not getting into here, and that feels like the case even if you haven't read Currie's autobiography Neon Angel (on which the film is based), which goes into grittier detail on the issues that tore The Runaways apart.
This is a film that believes that if energy and movement equal excitement, then languor and length can be used to make us feel as if everything is falling inexorably apart, when in fact The Runaways simply drags in the final third. Pacing nitpicks don't stop this being one of the best all-female band movies ever made. But given the competition includes Spice World: The Movie, that's not so hard.
Like the band itself, this film shows loads of early promise before folding in on itself. Great fun while it lasts and less pretentious than many a rock biopic, it would be difficult to make a Spinal Tap-esque send up of The Runaways, and that's refreshing for this genre.
For an event that generates so much excitement and carries with it such potential for surprise, it's remarkable how - year after year - the experience of being at the Cannes Film Festival always feels
Film4.com editor Catherine Bray ventures outside the Cannes Competition line-up - although not very far outside, with round ups of two films from the prestigious Un Certain Regard strand... Having no