- Terrible synopsis. Does everything featuring teenagers automatically have to be described as “coming-of-age”? This isn’t even really a biopic, although it does meet my requirements for being a good biopic — that is, that I want to go out and get my hands on everything The Runaways ever recorded. My music collection is depressingly devoid of female artists and I chalk this up to having grown up listening mostly to classic and psychedelic rock as a teenager, which was smack dab in the middle of the Lilith Fair craze featuring singer-songwriters whose music I hated.
As a point of illustration, my CD collection features the following female artists: Duffy, Janis Joplin, Loretta Lynn, The Mamas and the Papas, Madonna, Joss Stone, and Amy Winehouse, and all of those are single CDs. This is problematic! (Unless The White Stripes count, because I have all their albums.) The only one here who really rocks (I use the term without irony!) is Janis Joplin, of course, and I’m pretty sure the only women I ever heard on my classic rock station of choice were her and Joni Mitchell (but only on Sundays during a specific program). If you can play excessive amounts of 1980s Rush, surely you can play Joan Jett!! I have half a mind to write a strongly-worded letter. That’ll show them.
But I digress.
- Even if the story itself is not all that different from the other music biopics you’ve seen, I think it makes a lot of important gestures about women in ways that we haven’t seen before. The movie opens with Dakota Fanning’s Cherie Currie getting her period for the first time, starting from a small puddle of blood on the pavement before panning up her blood spattered leg. I think it’s easy to say the scene is included for shock value, but I think it plays a far more important role in putting something out there that we’re conditioned as women to think of as hidden, shameful, or dirty. It’s like a huge FUCK YOU to anyone who might find basic biological processes uncomfortable, especially in a world where scatalogical humour is practically its own genre in film.
The funny thing is I actually hate this kind of thing when I see it in art. I remember when I started university (about ten years ago), there was a show up in one of the student galleries where the artist (presumably a woman) had screen printed dozens of pairs of panties onto individual sheets of paper and then smeared red printing ink over the crotches of all the underwear. Menstruation art. Yawn. Even at nineteen with precious little feminist art history under my belt I knew this was played out. But film (and architecture) always seem to be the last of the art forms to really pick up on various movements in art, mostly owing to the expense and time needed for producing them, so I don’t hate that this is the first mainstream film that I can recall where someone has finally gone and put menstruation up on screen and in your face like this. [I have not researched whether or not there is such a thing as "feminist architecture" though.]
There were lots of little things like this, like the scene where the girls are trying to figure out how to masturbate. I just love the attempt to explore things we’re never allowed to see women do on film, things that are just as central and normal to women as they are to men, and without those things being explored for the titillation of men or as the punchline to a bad joke.
- I was trying to figure out who the female equivalent of David Bowie is and I can only conclude that it’s Lady Gaga.
- Everyone was quite fantastic in this, although Michael Shannon rubbed me the wrong way a couple of times, mostly for being too much of ham in some places.
- The inevitable tour of Japan is probably my favourite part of any band’s history. Live at Budokan! Intensities in ten cities!
- Loved the “heckler training” scene and I loved how excited the band were about fighting off their hecklers at a house party.
- The scene where Joan goes for guitar lessons from the world’s worst guitar teacher was also pretty great. I loved how despite how much he obviously sucked, she was convinced he must know “Smoke on the Water”.
- You know, despite all the cautionary tale stuff with the horrific drug use and alcoholism, I really wish there were more movies about girls who kick asses and take names. I really, really liked this one.
- Do female filmmakers a favour and go see this on opening weekend if you can so that box office numbers compel the bean counters to acknowledge that apparently ladies can make enjoyable movies and that movies about ladies can also be enjoyable.
Categories: 3.5 stars