I went to see The Runaways last night, filled with excitement and hope that it would be all I wanted it to be: an aesthetically delicious, fully satisfying grrl power rock epic. My enthusiasm was dampened only a little bit by the Twilight preview that inevitably came on before, featuring a deadpan Kristen Stewart looking mildly nauseous but not very much in love with either Team Edward or Team Jacob. I started to feel hesitant, like maybe I'd hyped myself for The Runaways too heavily -- could a cool haircut and a leather jacket really turn the limp 'heroine' Bella Swann into a convincing portrait of Joan Jett, one of our quintessential rock goddesses?
From the first moment of Stewart's appearance onscreen, I realized I needn't have worried. What comes across in the flat franchise of Stephanie Meyer's Twilight as passive, angsty boredom translates in writer-director Floria Sigismondi's script as genuine, tough, fiery, boyish, teenage rock spirit. In the first few of her opening scenes, Stewart as Jett portrays a shameless determination to upend the conventions of popular music, personified by a goofy if well-meaning guitar teacher who tells her, bluntly and naively, that "girls don't play electric guitars."
Stewart maintains the raw intensity of her performance throughout the film, as Jett gains a begrudging respect from producer Kim Fowley (a hilarious and ugly performance by Michael Shannon), who takes the underage girls under his wing and promises to boot-camp them into stardom. She handles the complex and explosive relationship between Jett and lead singer Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning, in her breakout adult role, has completely come in to her own) with tenderness and absolute emotional maturity. In short, I was completely blown away.
So, you were right, IrishCentral readers-- I take back everything I said about Kristen Stewart. (But not about Twilight. I'm sorry. That's still awful.) She's a fantastic actress who has finally been cast in a deserving role.
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