Hot Tub Time Machine and The Runaways

Sunday, March 28, 2010 8:36 AM By Simon

Oh, what to say? It's stupid. Very, very (very, very, very...) stupid. Most likely the result of a studio wondering how they could get together three of Hollywood's weirdest comic relief in one movie, and which big-name star they could get to star. Absolutely the weirdest, stupidest, funniest thing you will see until the next Judd Apatow movie comes out.

Time travel jokes and tropes litter this loosely-scripted comedy, fucking jokes, hair jokes, 80s jokes, holy-shit-the-guy-from-the-Daily-Show-is-fucking-my-mother/sister gags, Chevy Chase being annoyingly cryptic and unhelpful (in a hilarious way), John Cusack, ironically the poster boy for the 80s, trying his damndest to be the straightest man in a group made up of comic second bananas, and just maybe succeeding. In the vein of Snakes on a Plane, it gets to the point. Lots of commie jokes, lots of infidelity jokes, guys who look amazingly like the actors playing their younger selfs in mirror cameos. Holy shit, this movie is weird. It's a good way to spend a Saturday, seeing this movie.

Here's a different movie all together. As always, a music biopic directed by a former music video director, in this case, Floria Sigismondi, and it plays out like a music video. On paper, having the chick from Twilight and America's Sweetest Little Victim (and the other chick from Twilight) play two parts of the biggest band for feminism is kind of...dumb. But in action, it works. Cherie Currie, Dakota Fanning, both the movie's and the band's sex kitten, their jail(fucking)bait, starts as a naive 15-year-old ingenue, and develops into a prima donna junkie, selfish and lost and unbalanced.

Kristen Stewart, our breakout star, as Joan Jett, had some better luck in the biographical department. Joan Jett, part 1, had been a producer of the movie, and hung out on set. She had a direct reference for her mimicry, and it shows. She is absolutely incredible as Jett, representing the band's raw rock n'roll energy, their need to play and be taken as more than the soft-core porn gimmick Currie represents. Yet, while she is incredible, their are times when you know it's Stewart...despite their resemblence, and her amazing bouts of performance, Stewart's lazy lull, her mumbling, will show up at the wrong times.

As for the movie itself, it, too, parallels to the actual band. Both were a brilliant combination of raw, anarchic music and carefully-coordinated commercialism. They know how to get their message across while still appealing to the masses. They know when to switch from lyrics and riffs to catchy choruses and borderline-kiddie porn lesbian sex scenes. It captures the seventies perfectly, down to the sunglasses and the cigarette brands, to the bleeched, grainy lens filter.

What I did not like, though, was the glossing over of The Runaways' impact on music. The first successful all-girl rock band, it breaks some fucking barriers. But it is barely given a passing reference of how big they're gonna be in the beginning, a montage of magazine headlines, and them carayzay Japanese fangirls. The rest of the band, the ones who aren't Jett and Currie, remember?, barely get any lines, except for Stella Maeve's cofounding Sandy West, the drummer (it's always the drummer), who we get a lot of before Currie joins, and one scene where Scout Taylor-Compton's Lita Ford goes off on Currie in a recording session. Alia Shawkat's fictional bassist Robin, representing Jackie Fox and a plethora of other bassists the band went through, is given maybe two throwaway lines and a bikini scene at the crappy hotel pool. This may be justified, as their really is no character there, and they wanted to keep it as true as possible, but still.

Michael Shannon, my love, plays the tyrannical and flamboyant producer/manager Kim Fowley as just that: tyrannical and flamboyant. Never reaching past a combination of evil band manager and glittery comic relief, helping the under-18 girls to stardom and verbally abusing them to breakups. He's a skeevy worm of a dude, but calculating and smart when it comes to press and selling these jailbait he finds himself assembling. Right down to the scene where he and Joan come up with the catch to "Cherry Bomb" in their rehearsel trailer, with Cherrie waiting outside, as
an audition song for her, he is the commercial to their music, he is what keeps them relevent. He's a twisted sort of genius, this guy.

Now, it tries very hard to be edgy, and is one of the better music biopics, but it often falls into the rock n'roll cliches. From the aforementioned Japanese fangirls chasing them around town, to the drug-fueled binges and orgies, to the ODs, to the violent, throw-shit-at-the-wall recording booth breakup, to the success of one (Jett) and fall of the other (Currie)...and it all happens in a year. The end glosses over Jett's success with the superior Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Currie's quieter success (everyone else just sort of disappears). Nonetheless, it's an almost-fitting dedication to the one-note band that made rock history.


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March 29, 2010 at 10:56 PM
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