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Riot Grrrls:
The Runaways-The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Expanded Edition of 3-17-10 WCT Knight at the Movies column
By Richard Knight, Jr.
2010 is shaping up to be – surprise, surprise – the year of the lesbian movie.  Coming down the road
LGBT audiences can look forward to Julianne Moore and Amanda Seyfried involved in a sexy love
triangle in
Chloe, Tilda Swinton juggling a lover and a lesbian daughter in the Italian melodrama I Am
(arriving this summer), and this fall, Annette Bening and Moore as a lesbian couple in family
The Kids Are Alright.  This week things kick off with the biopic of the all girl glam rock 70s band
The Runaways and the Swedish mystery thriller The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  The first gives us a sexy
lesbian affair between the pubescent Cherie Curie and Joan Jett Both and the second, a defiant,
brainy and deciedly kick ass bisexual goth computer hacker.

“Girls don’t play guitars,” Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett is told early on in writer-director Floria
The Runaways but quickly the frustrated yet determined Joan has ignored that
advice and roaming the streets of Los Angeles in 1975, has found a beloved leather jacket and
hooked up with music producer Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon who is wildly entertaining as the freak
impresario).  Fowley has the inspired idea to create the first all girl glamrock band and soon he and
Joan are trolling the local unisex bar where they spot 15 year-old blonde ethereal goddess Cherie
Curie (Dakota Fanning) who will become the lead singer/jail bait fantasy figure for the group.

Fowley, a hustling Svengali if there ever was one, quickly has Joan and Cherie, joined by toughie Lita
Ford, Sandy West and the one whose name I can never remember, practicing in an abandoned trailer
(it calls to mind Divine’s trashy hideout in
Pink Flamingos).  “You bitches are going to be bigger than
the fucking Beatles,” he tells the eager girls but quickly adds, “This isn’t about women’s lib – this is
women’s libido.”  Grabbing the mic from Cherie, he acts out his sexualized version of what he wants
(every other word out of his mouth is “cock”).

As Fowley gets into another of his sexualized rants at the girls, in a matter of minutes he and Joan
proceed to write “Cherry Bomb” (the group’s sole hit which also beautifully encapsulated their appeal
and music).  This phony but entertaining sequence, like pretty much all the movie, mythologizes the
all too familiar rags to riches highlights of the short lived career of the Runaways which ended with the
expected tour of Japan and a slide down into drugs, alcohol, narcissistic excess, etc.  Along the way
Sigismondi captures the hallmarks of the tatty mid-70s bisexual glitter rock scene with its platform
shoes, skintight pants, tube tops, and pansexual hair and makeup.  

Shannon and the two teenage leads (who sing their own numbers and indulge in a sensual love
scene) ably jump into the characters headfirst and though the excess and exuberance is countered
by a fair amount of melodramatic heartbreak, jealousy, and enough tearful moments to smear the
mascara of all and sundry, the movie works best when its focusing on attitude, outfits and the sleazy
sex, drugs and rock-n-roll milieu circa 1975.  
The Runaways, a sort of Velvet Goldmine for girls, like the
music of the group, is best enjoyed in the moment as a guilty, irresistible pleasure without any
pretense of depth to deaden its erotic charge.

Briefly noted:  Noomi Rapace gives a riveting performance as Lisbeth Salander, the leading character
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, a Swedish thriller opening this Friday at the Landmark
Century Centre Cinema.  Lisbeth, a tough, bisexual, pierced, tattooed goth computer hacker teams
up against her will with a disgraced investigative journalist (Mikael Nyqvist) to solve a 45 year-old
mystery which slowly draws the two disparate characters together.  Based on a bestselling novel,
director Niels Arden Oplev’s psycho sexual thriller has twists and turns galore and the extra bonus of
Rapace (a Swedish double for Joan Jett) and Nyqvist – who have terrific chemistry – as his leads.  
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