Wasn’t it only yesterday that Dakota Fanning shrieked her way into your splitting headache in War of the Worlds? She was just 11 back then, and in this fast-and-loose dramatization of the flameout of the 1970s proto-grrrl group, she’s all of 15. Fanning’s costar, vamp bait Kristen Stewart, isn’t that much more experienced (she can vote). The two make for an uncomfortably tarted-up frontline as, respectively, blond yowler Cherie Currie and future-bad-reputation-disregarder Joan Jett. It’s exactly as it should be; the band’s story is a cautionary one. So if you feel yourself getting protective, the movie is doing its job.
The two underage characters meet, naturally, in a bar over drinks, shoved together by creepy L.A. entrepreneur Kim Fowley (Revolutionary Road’s Shannon, the only truly anarchic presence in the whole film). Soon enough, they’re crammed into a motor home with the rest of the band, working on chord ch-ch-changes and sliding inexorably toward drugs, soft-core lesbian sex and Japanese fame. As styled by video director Floria Sigismondi, the film mainly glances on these surfaces—it’s more giggly goofy than coke-in-the-bathroom naughty. (Only vinyl collectors will insist that a serious legacy has been sullied; the plot is as contrived as the group itself.)
So you don’t blink an eye when the prefab wheels run off the rails—there’s very little pathos here for something presumably informed by Currie’s 1989 memoir. Still, you do get a sense of the moment when glam was being fought out in American high schools, and teen sex was barely contained in tight pants. There’s lots of volume in these tunes—the soundtrack is killer—and at least everyone gets their rocks off.—Joshua Rothkopf
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See also Hot Seat: Joan Jett