About 20 minutes into The Runaways I noted that all it consisted of was haircuts and a great soundtrack. Though it goes through a short period of being mildly interesting, my initial assessment was not far off. The "biopic" of The Runaways, which is really only about two of the members of the band, features that polished rebellion that Catherine Hardwicke perfected to absolute mediocrity in Lords of Dogtown a few years back, where characters wear rebellion well, but never actually do anything rebellious. Kristen Stewart's Joan Jett utters "fuck" and "cunt" a few times, and even ruins a perfectly good t-shirt by ripping it up and spray-painting "Sex Pistols" on it, but you walk away with the assumption that she probably doesn't even hate her parents.
Dakota Fanning, however, comes off a little more bad-ass, playing Cherie Currie, the bi-sexual jail-bait possible-girlfriend-of-Joan-Jett-(they-sleep-together-one-night)-but-it's-never-really-made-clear-what-the-Hell-is-going-on-between-the-two-of-them lead-singer of The Runaways. She gets all of the fun scenes, all two of them, where she gets to win a junior high talent show by lip-syncing to glam-rock era David Bowie and giving her classmates the finger. Watching I Am Sam ten years ago, I never thought I'd see adorable little Dakota Fanning dressing up as an androgynous rock-star and dry-humping a school auditorium stage, but she steals the show. Well, her and Michael Shannon as the band's flamboyant manager and mentor. He only gets a few scenes, but the movie's almost worth watching for them alone.
But aside from two great performances, the film is a mess. I have no idea what time-span it covers, but I was left with the impression that Joan Jett went to a guitar lesson one day, paired up with an important music producer the next day, and went on tour before the end of the week. It all happens so fast you don't even learn the names of the other girls in the band. It's even missing the enjoyably obligatory scene where they come up with the name for the band. It's more than a little bit annoying that things like this are unclear, because it's not as though the film shows us the lives of the characters when they're not practicing or touring; that's pretty much all you get, which make the scenes in which Joan writes songs about heartbreak that much more aggravating because who has she ever loved? Somewhere in the third act, The Runaways runs away from coherence completely when the band breaks up for reasons that don't make sense and the film tries to manufacture some drama out of the whole thing, but I wasn't buying any of it, and neither should you. If you want to watch a movie about punk-rock, go rent 24 Hour Party People.