A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this music biopic is way too mature for Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning's young teen Twilight fans. It's full of drinking, drugging, and high-heeled swaggering, as well as plenty of sexy stuff, including kissing between teen girls and sex scenes between teen girls and young men. Substances are mostly limited to alcohol, but teens also snort cocaine. Parents should be prepared for teens to fantasize about running off and starting a band after seeing this movie.
What's the story?
As a teenager, rock star Joan Jett (Kristen Stewart) longed for more than the ennui of her time (the 1970s) and place (Southern California). After piquing the interest of musician/doorman/producer Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon), she starts a band under his hard-driving direction. With a drummer and bass guitarist to back her up, Shannon determines they need one more member, the Blondie/Brigitte Bardot concoction he finds in Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning), a 15-year-old yearning to escape her life. Her mother (Tatum O'Neal) has run away to Indonesia with her new husband, leaving Currie and her sister with their alcoholic father. The group Jett and Currie formed, The Runaways, was like a shooting star, burning brightly and dying out quickly. But not before it left an indelible mark on the American music scene.
Is it any good?
THE RUNAWAYS makes you long for the days when rock-and-roll was, to paraphrase Fowley, “a death sport” and making music wasn’t all posture and preening (no autotune here). The look-and-feel is right, the hunger seemingly real and raw. And the music brings on punk-rock nostalgia in the first few guitar licks. Kudos to director Floria Sigismondi, and the entire cast she assembled. Shannon, Stewart and Fanning all bring it, and in style. The film makes good use of Stewart’s nervous energy; finally, she doesn’t come off angsty, only raring to go.
But yes, there is a stipulation: The whole enterprise doesn’t fully gel. Like a band missing that secret ingredient that lifts them from relative anonymity. The styling’s right, but the substance is not. Though Currie’s family life as detailed here ostensibly informs her music and actions, the film goes for the obvious, simplistic connections. Abandoned child seeks sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll -- blah, blah, blah. But how did she really feel about the music? The same could be said for Jett here; she remains an enigma. Still, these mysteries don’t fully prevent having a fairly good time.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the teens using drugs and alcohol in the movie. Why do you think there's such a link between drugs and rock-n-roll? Did the up-and-coming musicians have to drink and use drugs to be part of that community, or could they have made different choices?
What do you think about the way Cherie's sexuality was portrayed in the movie? Was it realistic? How can teens explore their sexuality while staying safe?
What was it about The Runaways' music that connected with audiences? What made it seem fresh and new?
What did Joan and Cherie get out of the band? Out of music? What did Fowley get out of pushing the band members in such an insistent, abusive manner?
For kids who love music
Our editors recommend
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.