I saw The Runaways last weekend and felt really mixed about it. There was such a powerful message about the need for feminine expression of sexuality, and creativity which Joan Jett addressed through rock music. It was so heartbreaking to see that genuine drive exploited for commerce until the girls self destructed. That was the powerful part.
It also felt like were we held apart from the journey of Joan and Cherie. It was a Virgin story with 2 protagonists. The two girls lived in a dependent world of absent father’s and mother’s struggling to regain their status as wives. The Price of Conformity was seeing a bleak future for themselves, taking out the garbage (filling in for their fathers in their mother’s lives) and being a nursemaid to an alcoholic father as shown by Cherie’s sister. Cherie told lies to hold her world together. She was not able to be authentic.
I was never sure if it was Cherie’s story or Joan’s story. I didn’t feel connected to Joan because we never saw her points of transformation. She Dressed the Part when she bought a leather jacket but I never saw her connect with the girls in the band and form a secret world where she grew in an understanding of what the music stood for. We got lots of explanation of what Kin Fowley saw in the music, but what was Joan’s drive and purpose? Not knowing this, I had no sense of loss when the band broke up, or elation when she cut a record on her own. What made it difficult for her? What did she give up in her belief system to break through the barriers to women in rock music?
If it was Cherie’s story we needed to see why she made key decisions, not just the results of those decisions. When she was free of the band, what happened that got her into rehab? What happened in that first moment when she started drugs, for that matter. Since it was the beginning of her downfall we needed to witness the motivation that compelled her to self destruction.
The mood in The Runaways is powerful, capturing that great moment in rock music history, but I felt the journey of Cherie and Joan never got told. They needed to hit more of the 13 beats of the Virgin’s Journey for the audience to really feel it.