Did you know that rock and roll was often commercial? And that sex, drugs and booze were often part of the tours? These are some of the "revelations" that are part of The Runaways, a biopic about the first all-female punk band.

The Runaways quickly establishes that 1975 was a tough time for teenage indie women: Joan Jett (Kristen Stewart) has a hard time buying a leather jacket or getting electric guitar lessons, while Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning) is booed lip-syncing a David Bowie song at a high school performance. Things start looking up when producer Kim Fowley (a terrific Michael Shannon) likes Jett's idea of an all-female rock band. Fowley adds Cherie to the band as jailbait eye candy, trains them in everything from playing to dealing with hecklers, and sends them touring.

The heart of The Runaways is Cherie, the only character with any sort of background. Cherie lives in California with her sister Marie (Riley Keough) taking care of their alcoholic father. For her, the band represents an escape; but the sex, booze, and drugs -- plus fame, to the jealousy of her bandmates -- quickly become part of her life.

The acting in The Runaways is pretty good: Stewart's quiet brooding works very well for Joan Jett, while Dakota Fanning is terrific as a woman who goes from shy teen (nervous about singing "Cherry Bomb") to the self-destructive diva. Michael Shannon has the most fun as the producer who seems pretty abusive (continually insulting his band and hyping up their sexuality to increase sales) but is actually toughening them up for life as rock stars. Kudos to the actors playing the Runaways for performing all the songs in the movie themselves!

The problem with The Runaways is that if you remove the element of this being the first all-female rock band, it's the same story as most rock bands: tough beginning, then success and fame, then excess and downfall. The Runaways is enjoyable while it's on, but it's quite easy to forget minutes after leaving the theater.

Overall grade: C+
Reviewed by James Lynch

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