Neon Angels on the Road to Ruin

After seeing The Runaways at SXSW (yeah, I'm still name-dropping that), I gave it a review of 3/5. I'd like to amend that.

Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart are two of the finest young actors working in Hollywood. Possibly the two best under 21. While both appeared together in some little-known Vampire franchise, possibly a SyFy channel original, here is where they display their acting prowess in full force.

Both Fanning and Stewart, together, in their primes, should be admired and acknowledged by even the mildest of movie fans. I say without hyperbole Kristen Stewart's portrayal of Joan Jett is Oscar-caliber. And while Dakota Fanning's depiction of Cherie Curie gets overly dramatic in the third act, it hardly sullies an otherwise fine film.

My other large problem with The Runways was the implementation of the standard musician biopic formula. Practically every film documenting a musicians life follows the three-and-a-half act formula:

1) I'm Nobody
2) I'm Famous
3) I'm on drugs
3.5) I'm dead/I'm clean/I'm nobody again.

This isn't the fault of The Runaways, and the film shouldn't shoulder the blame. It's inescapable. It's an overused structure because so many musicians invariably fall victim to this lifestyle. While it is a tad tiresome projected on the big screen for the 822nd time, it's at least honest and accurate. Would it be better if the third act began with Joan helping Cherie kick her drug habit, then swearing off vice altogether, traveling the country warning young girls of the dangers of drugs and alcohol?

As a result of my recent softening, I hereby redact my previous rating of The Runaways from 3/5, and replace it with 4/5.

But why now? Why wait three months to change my mind? Simply put: The Distributor fucked up. Of all the SXSW films, very few wound up getting distributed. Even fewer would be distributed to theaters. As mentioned before, Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning are very talented actresses, but more importantly, they're popular. Popular means bankable. Bankable means returns. Returns means profit (take note, Underpants Gnomes).

All over SXSW, I saw posters and heard buzz about The Runaways. It was one of the headlining films. People wanted to see this movie. When The Runaways made its way to my homestead, St. Louis, I heard nothing about it. Nothing. With the exception of a listing in the movie timetables of the newspaper and a poster inside the theater in which it was currently playing, The Runaways received no press.

And who is at fault for all of this? None other than Apparition, a newly-formed distribution company and subsidiary of Sony Pictures Worldwide. Focusing on arthouse cinema, Apparition completely dropped the ball concerning The Runaways. With the legion of fangirls who would empty their piggy banks for the privilege of seeing a new film starring Fanning and Stewart, regardless of content, the film would have retaken it's 10 million dollar budget in a single weekend.

But that's not all. In addition to catering to fangirls, the film would also appeal to audiophiles with its depiction of one of the most famous, game-changing rock bands in history. It also had great writing, powerful acting, and a strong feminist undertone. The Runaways should have been widely released. It should have been a Summer release and surprise blockbuster. It should have had magazine ads, and radio ads, and TV ads, and trailers before other blockbuster films. Instead, it played on a total of 244 theaters. It barely grossed 3.5 million.

Has Apparition heard of marketing? The process of attracting consumers and informing them of a products existence and quality?

Circling back to my original point, The Runaways needs all the support it can get. Apparition doesn't know anything, including how to distribute a film. Audiences barely had a chance to know the movie existed. And critics, like myself, were probably too harsh concerning the genre and its pratfalls. The Runaways does not deserve the hand it was dealt, and while my efforts may be futile at this point, I'm at least making an effort to espouse the quality of a good movie. Which is more than Apparition can claim.

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