Music video director Floria Sigismondi trains her eye on the early days of punkish girl rockers as Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning) and Joan Jett (Kristen Stewart) hook up with producer impresario Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon) and set the stage for what would become the runaway success of women in the game of sex and Rock & Roll.
Sigismondi joins the ranks of Jonathan Glazer (Sexy Beast), Spike Jonze (Where the Wild Things Are), Sanaa Hamri (Something New), F. Gary Gray (Law Abiding Citizen) and Mark Romanek (One Hour Photo) as video directors able to transition into the ranks of feature filmmakers. But Sigismondi, along with Hamri as the primary female movers and shakers on the scene, deserves special notice, especially in light of her tackling the story of Jett and Currie.
[Read Jason Gargano's interview with Sigismondi here.]
The Runaways, as Fowley spits and growls during the key development process, were all about taking the power of young female sexuality and using it as an instrument and a weapon to break down barriers in the music industry, and Sigismondi, who employs every trick of the music video trade as well as her background in photojournalism, documents those raw and exposed moments.
She never glosses them over, takes us out of the period or resorts to hyper-stylization, and she convinces her leads to stand nakedly before her camera. In particular, Fanning and Shannon let us watch as they cut themselves open and bleed Rock & Roll.
With The Runaways, Sigismondi gets a running start at what will likely turn into a long career in the long-form spotlight. Grade: B
Opens April 9.