Joan Jett’s parents got her an electric guitar for Christmas when she was 13. A guitar teacher told her, “girls don’t play rock n’ roll.” Bad Reputation is a simultaneous “thank you” and “fuck you” to that specimen of toxic masculinity.
And that toss-off insult that ensured Joan Jett was going to become and rock n’ roll legend was the just the first fact that dropped my jaw as I sat watching in a late-night press and industry screening at Sundance. I was dead on my feet, but I smiled for every second of this picture and I blasted Joan as I walked through the frigid air back to my AirBnb. When I got there I couldn’t get to sleep right away. I can’t be sure whether it was the chill or the documentary that fired me up, but I tend to think it was the later. I’ve always considered Joan an icon. I’ve seen her live. I didn’t know the half of her story.
Director Kevin Kerslacke collects archival footage, pulls press and assembles a murderers’ row of rocknrollas and badasses, including Joan herself, Iggy Pop, Debbie Harry, Peter Townsend, Kathleen Hanna, Billie Joe Armstrong, Miley Cyrus and Kristin Stewart (who portrayed Joan wonderfully in The Runaways) to add color to every minute of the whole unbelievable adventure.
From our intro to the teenage girl who went out-and-about the LA club scene to assemble a girl group just a short while after that guitar teacher fanned the flames of her desire to the international success of The Runaways to her career-spanning creative partnership with Kenny Laguna the ups and downs of life as a solo artist to her nurturing and support of the next generation of rebels (including Bikini Kill and the riot grrrl movement as a whole. Oh and a little band called Nirvana, too.), we run a gauntlet of rock with Joan, and we’re left with the impression that the stories go much deeper still.
At one point Joan says “I just want to start a girl revolution.” And believe it, it’s as true today as it was when she launched The Runaways on sheer force of will.
Happily, Bad Reputation sold to Magnolia Pictures and is likely to be released at some point in 2018. When it is, give it a watch, and I promise, you’ll be singing along with vim and vigor, just like Oprah in this clip I found during a research spiral. (You’re welcome.)
Director: Kevin Kerslacke
Writer: Joel Marcus
Runtime: 1h, 32mins
Main image credit: Sundance Film Institute
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