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Fanning, Stewart grow up fast in “The Runaways,” if not unpredictably.

Fanning, Stewart grow up fast in “The Runaways,” if not unpredictably. (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.

Coming-of-age movies are Sundance’s stock in trade, but few announce themselves as boldly, and broadly, as “The Runaways,” whose first shot is a splotch of menstrual blood hitting the pavement. Said splotch emanates from Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning), a suburban California teenager with a burgeoning David Bowie obsession and a surly sensuality just beginning to bloom.

Teenage sexuality has always been the wellspring of rock and roll, but the Runaways made themselves the aggressors, concocting an unstable mixture of empowerment and exploitation. Floria Sigismondi, who directed music videos for Marilyn Manson, Christina Aguilera and the White Stripes, has the story’s girl-power framework well in hand. But in spite of that opening drop, the movie’s evocation of the Runaways’ rise and fall is short on the juices that make for great, trashy, disreputable rock. She crams Fanning into Currie’s famous corset, and stages a passionate kiss between Currie and Jett before compressing their romantic relationship into a single softcore montage, but the movie is too tasteful and glossy to thoroughly embody the Runaways’ quasi-pedophiliac appeal.

As much as for its characters, “The Runaways” is a rite of passage for its stars: Fanning, attempting to move beyond her preternaturally placid juvenile roles, and Kristen Stewart, whose volcanic Joan Jett runs hotter than the brooding teens she’s played in, well, everything.

01242010_Runaways5.jpgFanning’s occasionally eerie poise has left actors several times her age in awe, and she has no trouble stepping into the lead spot. The movie is organized around the relationship between Currie and Jett, to the virtual exclusion of the band’s other members — Scout Taylor-Compton, as guitar goddess Lita Ford, is generally little more than a scowling presence on the edge of the frame — but it’s tilted in Currie’s favor, which is not surprising given that Currie’s memoir is credited as the source material for Sigismondi’s script. Her escalating substance abuse and her growing addiction to the rush of fame signal the beginning of the band’s end. Apart from a passing mention, you’d never know that the Runaways continued for several years after Currie quit the band. Losing control, however, is not within the scope of Fanning’s undeniable gifts. Even when she’s collapsing in the lobby of a hotel in Tokyo or slumping to the bottom of a California phone booth, she’s never as unstrung as she needs to be.

Stewart, on the other hand, makes a living by being a mess on-screen. Her emotions seem to pour out of her without passing through the filter of self-consciousness, an astonishing openness that can be mistaken for a lack of technique. As Jett, she’s both available and impenetrable, a surefire recipe for rock stardom. She’s closest to Currie, but she also shares a kindred spirit with the band’s Machiavellian manager, Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon), a sleazy, foul-mouthed visionary who boils the band’s songs down to a simple formula: “Fuck you, fuck authority, I want an orgasm!” Shannon’s live-wire performance gives the movie a jolt it badly needs when he’s not around. When he’s on the screen, you never know what’s going to happen next.

“The Runaways” will be released by Apparition on March 19th.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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