'The Runaways' Reviews: Kristen Stewart & Dakota Fanning Praised

Kristen Stewart appears to have been luckier than Robert Pattinson in her choice of non-Twilight Saga vehicle.

Written and directed by Floria Sigismondi from singer Cherie Currie's autobiography, The Runaways has received mostly positive notices from US critics. Even those who weren't all that enthusiastic about the film praised the performances, particularly those of Stewart as rocker Joan Jett, Dakota Fanning as Currie, and Michael Shannon as music impresario Kim Fowley.

Also in the Runaways cast: Tatum O'Neal, Stella Maeve, Scout Taylor-Compton, and Bret Cullen.

“So this isn't an in-depth biopic, even though it's based on Currie's 1989 autobiography. It's more of a quick overview of the creation, rise and fall of the Runaways, with slim character development, no extended dialogue scenes, and a whole lot of rock 'n' roll. Its interest comes from Shannon's fierce and sadistic training scenes as Kim Fowley, and from the intrinsic qualities of the performances by Stewart and Fanning, who bring more to their characters than the script provides.” Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times. (In his review, Ebert also makes a connection between The Runaways and Russ Meyers' 1970 exploitation flick Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, which Ebert himself wrote.)

“I have to admit I was completely wrong about Stewart's ability to play the goddess of punk. Stewart clearly did her homework, because she is fantastic. It's not just the eerie physical resemblance; Stewart inhabits Jett with every movement she makes. In her first few scenes, the lines coming out of her mouth sounded more petulant than rebellious, and I was worried. But as the movie progresses, the character begins to communicate more with movement than with words and it is phenomenal. The strongest part about her performance is that she captures Joan's raw, uncompromising love for rock music.” Brian Salisbury at Hollywood.com.

“One could argue that the Runaways paved the way for the Madonnas and Lady Gagas of the world—this movie hints at a really fascinating story but just barely scratches at its glittery surface.” Sara Vilkomerson in the New York Observer.

“The strength and beauty of The Runaways are that it tells the truth. It doesn't always tell the literal truth about the pioneering all-girl rock band, the Runaways, though it gets the basic facts and most of the details right. More crucially, it conveys precisely what it was like to be young in the mid-1970s, a peculiar juncture in American social history. … And in getting that one thing right - in capturing that strange combination of despair and frustrated energy - it gets everything right.” Mick LaSalle in the San Francisco Chronicle.

“People will probably run to The Runaways, the story of the pioneering seventies girl group, to see Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett earn a bad reputation she doesn't give a damn about and little Dakota Fanning as 15-year-old Cherie Currie strut around the stage in skimpy outfits ch-ch-chanting that she's a ch-ch-cherry bomb and join Stewart in some heavy Sapphic smooching. In patches it's agreeably lurid, but it's otherwise ho-hum.” David Edelstein in New York magazine.

“The most entertaining thing about The Runaways, a highly watchable if mostly run-of-the-mill group biopic, is that its writer-director, Floria Sigismondi, has a sixth sense for how the Runaways were bad-angel icons first and a rock & roll band second.” Owen Gleiberman in Entertainment Weekly.

Photo: The Runaways (River Road Entertainment)

Kristen Stewart in The Runaways

Kristen Stewart, in her first starring vehicle following her success as the befuddled heroine in The Twilight Saga movies, has received many more bouquets from critics than fellow Twilight and The Twilight Saga: New Moon co-star Robert Pattinson. For his performance as a rebellious young man in Allen Coulter's romantic drama Remember Me, Pattinson has been greeted by many more pans than paens from US and international critics.

US critics have found Kristen Stewart's rebelliousness in Floria Sigismondi's The Runaways more to their tastes. According to reviewers, Stewart has done a thoroughly believable impersonation of rocker Joan Jett for early 21st century audiences.

We're still culling snippets from various reviews and will be adding more later today. So far, no Oscar talk for either Stewart or co-star Dakota Fanning, but inevitably someone will come up with that at some point.

“Stewart, known mainly for mumbling and stumbling through the Twilight movies, is the revelation here. She has made a meticulous study of Jett - of her posture, her manner, her expressions, even in the way thoughts cross her eyes. And she has Jett's stage manner down, the way this seemingly shy person assumes total authority when she gets up to play. The visuals help - the costuming and art direction are spot-on.” Mick LaSalle in the San Francisco Chronicle.

“Another new movie this week, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo from Sweden, has a role for a young, hostile computer hacker. Stewart has been mentioned for the inevitable Hollywood remake. Reviewing that movie, I doubted she could handle such a tough-as-nails character. Having seen her as Joan Jett, I think she possibly could.” Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times.

“The film, directed with a gritty eye by Floria Sigismondi, was surprisingly successful when it came to casting. Kristen Stewart, as Joan Jett, channels all of her weird, fidgety Twilight energy into a compelling, tomboyish figure of a girl/woman who just wants to rock as hard—or harder—as her male counterparts … And Dakota Fanning, all grown up from her Dr. Seuss days, is believable as jail-bait Cheri Currie—half David Bowie, half Brigit [sic] Bardot …” Sara Vilkomerson in the New York Observer.

“As portrayed, they're so generically brash that they don't have full-scale personalities. Stewart nails Jett's sinewy swagger, but Joan's lesbian proclivities are treated in a teasing, music-video way. I mean, why be so coy in a film that's meant to be a rowdy salute to a new kind of audacious feminine sexual power?” Owen Gleiberman in Entertainment Weekly.

Photo: The Runaways (River Road Entertainment)

Dakota Fanning (center), Kristen Stewart (right) in The Runaways

Floria SigismondiKristen Stewart – looking remarkably different from Robert Pattinson's human lover in Twilight and The Twilight Saga: New Moon – Dakota Fanning, and Michael Shannon star in The Runaways, written and directed by Floria Sigismondi (right).

Adapted from The Runaways' singer Cherie Currie's autobiography, The Runaways tells the story of the all-girl rock band of the late '70s. Stewart plays rocker Joan Jett; Shannon is record producer Kim Fowley.

“Consensus: Viewers expecting an in-depth biopic will be disappointed, but The Runaways is as electric as the band's music, largely thanks to strong performances from Michael Shannon, Dakota Fanning, and Kristen Stewart. “Rotten Tomatoes.

“This is a movie that shows women taking control of their own lives, bodies and voices, without polite curtsies to the establishment - and really, that's exactly what The Runaways represented to a whole generation of young women who came of age circa 1977.” Katherine Monk at Canwest News Service (via the Vancouver Sun).

“The trouble is that while this take on the rock-band-makes-good genre has been made with plenty of energy and enthusiasm, it lacks that final burst of inspiration that would have set it apart from other similar films. That is bad enough but what is especially heartbreaking is the fact that all the material required to actually do that is sitting right there and for some inexplicable reason, the filmmakers have failed to take advantage of much of it and while the end result may have the salutary effect of exposing younger viewers to the group, it fails to offer much of a compelling case for its own existence.” Peter Sobczynski at efilmcritics.com.

“I'll be blunt about this: I really wasn't looking forward to this movie. I'm not the biggest fan of lip-chewing, hair-twirling Kristen Stewart, or the wide-eyed, blank face expert Dakota Fanning. I love rock and roll … but these two starring in a movie about an all-girl, teen sensation, flash in the pan band from the 1970s? I just didn't think they could pull it off. Hey, at least I'm big enough to admit I was wrong.” Kevin Kelly at Cinematical.

“But once Shannon lurches off-screen, we're left with five teenagers, most of whom are only sketched out. … And when the most interesting character in a rock 'n' roll movie is the manager, that's not a good sign. Stewart, the best of the rest, tries hard here. Fanning briefly comes to life during one concert scene.” Stephen Whitty at NJ.com.

“But Ms. Sigismondi infuses crucial scenes with a rough, energetic spirit, and shows a willingness to accept the contradictions inherent in the material without prurience, moralism or too much sentimentality. The movie may be a little too tame in the end, but at its best it is just wild enough.” A.O. Scott in the New York Times.

“The problem with The Runaways, a street-level snapshot of the creation of the groundbreaking '70s all-girl rock band, is that they went with the wrong girl.” Betsy Sharkey in the Los Angeles Times.

The Runaways photo: Apparition

Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning in The Runaways

Kristen Stewart has generally received good notices for her performance as tough-talking, lesbian rocker Joan Jett in The Runaways. There have been some dissenters, however.

“The relationship [between the two lead characters] is strained, but it's also sisterly, which gives Sigismondi and the two young stars a huge emotional canvas to work with. They don't let it go to waste, either, as Fanning and Stewart recreate the young-girl archetype with honest potency.” Katherine Monk at Canwest News Service (via the Vancouver Sun).

“Kristen Stewart steps out of her normal angsty girl act and nails down the punk rock, hard as nails Jett, and Fanning is equally as good with her disconnected portrayal of Currie …” Kevin Kelly at Cinematical.

“Joan, who clearly loves Cherie (the kiss between Ms. Stewart and Ms. Fanning has become grist for talk-show chat), is also her rival and foil. Joan is the backbone of the band, and the one most able to turn Fowley's advice into a program of professional success. And Ms. Stewart, watchful and unassuming, gives the movie its spine and soul. Cherie may dazzle and appall you, but Joan is the one you root for, and the one rock 'n' roll fans of every gender and generation will identify with.” A.O. Scott in the New York Times.

“… [T]he other major flaw with The Runaways is the bizarre decision to cast Kristen Stewart, arguably the most relentlessly recessive young actress working today, in the role-there are plenty of words out there that could be used to properly define Joan Jett, but 'recessive' is definitely not one of them. I have liked Stewart in most of her previous non-vampire-related performances … and she does get Jett's look down pat-in some scenes, she is virtually a dead ringer-but she just lacks the fire and energy that the role requires.” Peter Sobczynski at efilmcritics.com.

“The good news is that Stewart is absolutely spot on as Jett; fighting convention in studded leather jackets favored by biker bad boys and shredding an electric guitar when folk rock or sugary pop was more the fashion for femmes. It was a smart choice for Stewart, who was in danger of having her career eclipsed by Bella, the pale troubled teen she plays in the Twilight series, a role that made her a star without confirming she could act.” Betsy Sharkey in the Los Angeles Times.

“While she's really playing second banana to Fanning, Kristen Stewart makes an excellent Joan Jett.” Chris Bumbray at joblo.com.

Photo: Apparition

Dakota Fanning in The Runaways
Dakota Fanning in The Runaways

Kristen Stewart's role in The Runaways is actually subordinate to that of Dakota Fanning, even though Joan Jett (Stewart) is much better remembered today than Cherie Currie (Fanning). However, writer-director Floria Sigismondi's screenplay is based on Currie's autobiography – which explains the film's focus.

The Runaways has opened to mixed but generally positive reviews. The film's three leads, Stewart, Fanning, and Michael Shannon, have received most of the praise. Even so, there have been some critics who have carped about either Stewart's or Fanning's (sometimes both) inability to truly bring to life the mid-70s rockers.

“Fanning and Stewart do their own singing here (Stewart took guitar lessons, too), and they're really good … Fanning has nailed down the perfect lost-angel presence for her portrayal of Cherie (compare it with old Runaways concert footage and you can see how close she's come to the original model); and while Stewart spends a lot of time slightly off to the side, she makes herself felt in every sequence in which she figures. Her ambiguity — as a friend, as a lover — is fascinating, especially in a scene in which Joan is lying on top of Cherie, breathing pot smoke into her mouth, and the camera looks up into her dark, otherworldly eyes, wondering what she's wondering, and what she sees coming.” Kurt Loder on MTV.com.

“Fanning, unfortunately, is absolutely wrong as Cherie. Fifteen when the film was being shot, in a bustier and fishnets and heavy make-up, she looks like an innocent lured off Hollywood Boulevard for child porn, not the growling sex machine that – at least on stage – Currie was. … In recent years, she has been turning to indie projects to make the transition to edgier adult roles, including as a rape victim in the provocative but panned Hounddog in 2007. But she has yet to find the right platform, and with Cherie, she never finds her footing.” Betsy Sharkey in the Los Angeles Times.

“Sigismondi's refusal to effectively flesh out the majority of the supporting figures proves disastrous, as talented performers like Stewart and Shawkat are left with little to do but strike sneering, rebellious poses (and this is to say nothing of Fanning's flat-out inability to wholeheartedly step into the shoes of her hard-bitten character).” David Nusair at Reel Film Reviews.

“Stewart, who adopts Jett's hunched posture and punk mumble, lets her hungry stare do all the work. She wants to be a real rocker, not just a star. Fanning's Currie, by contrast, is the baby drama queen, a frail narcissist who can't help marketing her nubile sexuality because it gets her the attention she craves.” Liam Lacey in the Toronto Globe and Mail.

“Dakota Fanning, long Hollywood's leading child star, hurls herself into the role of Cherie Currie, the band's jailbait lead singer whose overt sexuality and provocative outfits predated Madonna by a decade or more. It is a stunning transition from the innocence of most of Fanning's roles, and the actress pulls it off without hitting a false note as Currie deals with an alcoholic father, a neglectful mother, drugs and the ravages of fame.” Charlie McCollum at the San Jose Mercury News.

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4 Comments to 'The Runaways' Reviews: Kristen Stewart & Dakota Fanning Praised

  1. Eric C

    Wow, I just came from the movie. Watched The Runaways. What a movie. You should never will (or at least this week) watch any romantic comedy again. It is a waste of your brain cells.
    The director of photography Benoit Debie in charge of the camera- his work is is a masterpiece! The close captures of let's say dog's poop. A high heel cracking the pill, Dakota's character fainting in the elevator, the car (!!!) genius) that take them on the tour parked up the ramp, as if it was a warning ,a symbol of quick possibility of falling back. That film can be watch just to learn what professional cameras can do, pure art, .What a vision- close view into the eyes of the musicians. Art at the highest. The director Floria Sigismondi—deserves an Oscar. She does not exploit the girls. That famous for being famous kissing scene is nothing, done in shades, nothing to it. Believe me ,I was afraid for hard core heterosexual scenes with drugged musicians – that did not happened either .
    The best actor for me—is Michael Shannon, or maybe his role is just well written. Dakota is superb. Kristen is almost too pretty to be a real butch, compose , stoic. Clear leader. When she smiles- all that upper middle class girl , child comes out. She looks very innocent. Very believable. The girls were not monsters but regular girls. The camera, yes, I am In love with the camera crew- shots from above, angles. As for emotions: I have cried twice and laughed about three times. I was glued to the chair. Too bad it is R rated. All girls should see it. And if the girls sung themselves- the are gifted. It gives you felling of being at the concert. I do not know who sung what because voices bland together. It is such emotional drama, elegantly made, energizing but without sentiments. Real life story objectively presented. Real music movie. Too short for me.

  2. Eric C

    I have seen the Runaways today. It blows you mind out! Amazing job of the director and director of photography. it is so artistic and beautiful. No exploitation of female characters for the sake of it. Music? Fell like being at the concert. Did they sing or had help, I do not know. Winner.
    Director of photo. deserves an Oscar. I cried and went emotional.Camera crew played madic and seduction with the audience. I felt like being at a art show more than in the movie house.For the first time I have felt the presence(like a gohst) of the director at work.Wheather is was a dog's poop or zooming into two onions , or eyes- the same atrful magic.

  3. Eric C

    I have seen the Runaways today. It blows you mind out! Amazing job of the director and director of photography. it is so artistic and beautiful. No exploitation of female characters for the sake of it. Music? Fell like being at the concert. Did they sing or had help, I do not know. Winner.
    Director of photo. deserves an Oscar. I cried and went laughed.

  4. soufiane

    hello my name is djerbir soufiane from algeria Cite relizane
    i love dakota and Kristen
    thanks :)