Any straight guy who sees The Runaways will have difficulty standing up to go text outside, what with a 15-year-old Dakota Fanning seducing Japan in a bustier, snorting coke, and tonguing KStew. I mean, what does it all mean? And it’s only moderately less awkward discussing the burgeoning sexuality and punk hedonism of young girls with another guy. So, rather than compute my feelings about the rock biopic into a traditional review, I decided to ask a female’s opinion. /Film could not be more psyched to discourse on The Runaways with NYC-based author Marisa Meltzer, whose swell new book, Girl Power, is about the history and culture of female rockers.
Hunter Stephenson: Following the press screening for The Runaways, I was surprised to hear you loved the film. Having written a book on the legacies and challenges of females in punk, rock, and pop music from the ’70s onward, what real insight does the movie offer on the subject?
Marisa Meltzer: I guess I should admit that I’m a person who is very easily entertained. When you throw in platforms, teenage makeout sessions, and The Stooges on the soundtrack, I’m willing to overlook the film’s flaws. And there are certainly flaws: too much exposition, terrible character development of the other band members, narrative cliches. But I think one important thing to remember is that there really aren’t that many stories being told about women in music—and directed by a woman, no less!—so I’m excited when anyone throws me a bone. I think it’s important for people, especially young women, who might go see The Runaways to realize that girls playing rock music wasn’t always a given, and that their gender was way more of a barrier just a few decades ago than it is now.
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In the new rock biopic, The Runaways, a glum Kristen Stewart sits poolside, suckling vodka from a water pistol before pushing it suggestively down the front of her stomach. In a separate scene, she coaches a bathing teenage band mate on how to get wet using a mental image of Farrah Fawcett and a shower head. And then there’s co-star Dakota Fanning, better known as Hollywood’s 15-year-old precocious precious, who hoovers enough blow on an airplane to soar with Kenny Powers. These scenes are presented as the on-tour lifestyle of the titular ‘70s all-girl rock band, assembled and curated by the group’s wiry and rude L.A. producer, a man named Kim Fowley. Foreseeing the popularity of The Runaways for their jail-bait appropriation of the aggression, punk music, and horniness typically associated with adolescent males, Fowley had no qualms with solidifying a legacy by way of the girls’ quicksilver paths to self-destruction.
Actor Michael Shannon plays Fowley with a commitment and intensity welcome and familiar to any viewer who saw his performance in the new Southern indie classic Shotgun Stories or as the best part of Revolutionary Road (which earned him an Oscar nom for Best Supporting Actor). In recent days, Fowley has come out in support of Shannon’s performance, calling him the Christopher Walken of a generation. Given Shannon’s unflattering if amusing portrayal of the guy as an id swimming in midnight oil and the naivety of young girls, the endorsement is mildly surprising. But the comparison is astute. After interviewing the actor this week in a hotel in NYC, I couldn’t shake similar comparisons with the cornhusk steeliness and alertness of a 30something David Letterman and the seen-a-lot-of-shit-ness of Ray Liotta. In our below interview, Shannon discussed the contradictions of Fowley, HBO’s forthcoming Martin Scorsese series Boardwalk Empire, and the time he hid in a doghouse.
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Remember the movie Hounddog? In the words of Tae Kwon Do instructor Fred Simmons: “I can’t even believe that’s something that’s real.” Well, America’s favorite lil’ overachiever, Dakota Fanning, has finally outgrown any chance of a not-rumored JonBenét Ramsey biopic and will now co-star in one about proto-gal-rockers The Runaways instead. Fanning will play Cherie Currie, the white blond lead singer who joined the influential ’70s group at the tender age of 15, and faced the pressures of fame and the sociopathic ways of band mastermind Kim Fowley. Back in December we reported that Kristen Stewart, the lead in the Twilight franchise, will star as Runaways guitarist and breakout solo star Joan Jett. Her biggest qualification besides box office draw? Owning a $60 Clash t-shirt.
Floria Sigismondi, best known for Marilyn Manson’s “The Beautiful People” video, will direct from her own script and the film begins shooting in the much-anticipated spring. Two classic punk films that I hope Sigismondi has considered for the tone and look of The Runaways would be 1980’s Foxes, which co-starred CuRrie alongside an insanely talented young Jodie Foster and Laura Dern—recently screened at the New Bev in L.A.; and 1981’s Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains which captured a similarly fizzy riot-girl heatwave and starred youths like Diane Lane (wowzer), teen Brit idol Ray Winstone, and Dern again.
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