“Very surreal. But in a good way.” That’s how rock icon Joan Jett summed up seeing her story brought to the big screen at the premiere of Floria Sigismondi’s “The Runaways” last night at the Sundance Film Festival.
The film charts Jett’s (Kristen Stewart) early years and rise to fame during the 1970s as the founding member of The Runaways, a seminal, all-female punk-rock band, with a particular emphasis on her tempestuous relationships with bandmate Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning, looking all grown up) and manager Kim Fowley (a typically offbeat Michael Shannon).
Unfortunately, it’s a by-the-numbers, enervated biopic lacking any of the grit or rebellious spirit of punk rock, with both Stewart and Fanning fatally miscast in the lead roles. Like everything else in “The Runaways” they’re hopelessly safe when the film wants so bad to be edgy, while Sigismondi simply fills in the gaping holes in her narrative and the characters’ psychologies with endless scenes of a strung-out looking Fanning wandering around in her panties. Nevertheless, the film may draw audiences eager to catch a glimpse of the steamy love scenes between Fanning and “Twilight” phenom Stewart when it’s released by Apparition on March 19.
“Everybody knows Joan Jett but nobody knows how hard it was to become her,” said Kristen Stewart during the Q&A following the screening. “We’re pretty lucky. We’ve grown up, as girls, being told we can do whatever we want and that wasn’t always the case.”
Stewart and Fanning each spent time with the women they portray in the movie and both Jett and Currie expressed deep appreciation for the young actresses. “I have to give them such credit for their work ethic,” said Jett. “It wasn’t just a gig… They were deadly serious about it. I wanted to be there for Kristen to get whatever she needed from me.” Later, an emotional Currie (“I’m actually shaking right now,” she confessed to the audience as she took the podium) called Fanning her “favorite actress of all time.”
“I had done some singing before this, but nothing this iconic,” said Fanning about her role in the film. “With these songs I really felt the need to do them justice… I thought it was important for me to actually sing them. So I hope I did as good a job as Cherie did.”
Ultimately, despite the throngs of “Twilight” fans who braved the crowd and the cold to lay eyes on Kristen Stewart (one of whom tearfully informed her that she is “like, the greatest actress ever”) this was mostly Jett and Currie’s night. Said Currie about the rock legend: “I knew from the minute I met her that she be would the godmother of rock and roll.”
Check out video of the entire Q&A here.
Editorial Assistant Andy Lauer is part of the indieWIRE team covering the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.
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