The Runaways A somewhat fictionalized version of the life and times of the 1975-77 teenage girl rock band best known for Joan Jett (Kristen Stewart) and Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning). No members were over 16 when they were packaged as "jailbait rock" by snaky producer Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon). They dressed like hookers and dominatrixes, they idolized the Sex Pistols, but they were also insecure and immature young girls. Currie almost went down in flames, and the movie is based on her autobiography, Neon Angel.
Joan Jett still tours today, and is an intact survivor. The movie reproduces the Runaways' actual music, which is no better that you might expect, but the acting is very convincing. Kristen Stewart proves once again that she's a rising star, and Dakota Fanning is such a fine actress that I, for one, almost believed I'd always heard her using the f-word. As for Michael Shannon, is he the most unheralded force in acting today, or what?
Welcome to the Rileys:
Welcome to the Rileys was one of the buzz champs of Sundance 2010. The discovery once again is Kristen Stewart, who after this year's festival can be considered completely rehabilitated after the "Twilight" films. The lead is James Gandolfini, as an Indianapolis plumbing contractor who goes to New Orleans on a business trip and meets (quite innocently) a runaway lap dancer who may be 16. At home, his wife (Melissa Leo) hasn't been able to leave the house after their own daughter's death, and Gandolfini decides on the spot to sell his business, stay in New Orleans, and rescue this angry and damaged girl.
That sounds like unlikely melodrama? So it is. But Gandolfini, Stewart and Leo inhabit it with persuasive performances, and director Jake Scott uses French Quarter locations that add another level of atmosphere. Gandolfini does something here he often does, as in John Turturro's "Romance & Cigarettes" (2005): He demonstrates that although he may not be conventionally handsome, when he smiles his face bathes you in the urge to like him. Kristen Stewart here is tougher even than her punk rocker in "The Runaways." Who knew she had these notes? I'm discovering an important new actress.