I don't even know where to start. I've watched Edgeplay three times in the few days since I got it, and still feel as if I am seeing new, dusty corners in a room I grew-up in.
If you are looking for another typical, VH-1 styled look at the fun and excesses of a dysfunctional rock band, this complex film may disappoint you. Edgeplay is not a film intended to excite, gawk, or fawn over it's subjects, and I say subjects rather than "subject" intentionally, as it's a film about people, not about the rock 'n roll lifestyle. There is no whimsy for the joyful free-sex and drugs of the 70's, or any fanboy enthusiasm for The Runaways as a band.
What there is, is an insightful and compassionate look at a tragic and yet stoic group of young women, who made history, without ever recieving any praise, who made great music without ever selling many records, and who paid dearly in many ways for their now legendary status, with a good part of their childhoods.
Edgeplay is a documentary about the all-girl hard-rock band The Runaways, who so much like their tourmates The Ramones, set the next two decades on fire, without getting any of the credit or rewards.
Victory Tischler-Blue, the director, writer and concience of Edgeplay, endured a 6-year trial-by-fire getting this film made and released,(and is a story as compelling as any in her movie), and I think much of the raw honesty and poignance in this film is in some ways a direct result of that struggle.
There is an almost Dickensian cast of characters: A young, Joan Jett-Talented and driven, yet shy and unsure of herself, Cherie Currie-A striking blonde, who never expected to be a singer, and yet, much like Lana Turner sitting at a soda fountain, was chosen to be one, Kim Fowley-A slimy Svengali who unashamedly preyed on very, young girls to make himself rich, and makes no apology, Sandy West-A tomboyish, young drummer who simply loved playing her drums, and wanted no more than to spend her life doing it, Jackie Fox-A doe-eyed bassist who found out earler than the others that stardom could be an empty trophy cup, Lita Ford-Fiesty, tough, and driven, and Vicky Blue-The bassist who walked into this dysfunctional family in the midst of meltdown, and yet stayed on the outside enough, and more importantly, grew-up enough to make this incredible film.
I think Miss Blue, ex-band member and director of Edgeplay, knew something that Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone With The Wind knew. Mrs. Mitchell once said about the theme of her novel, " I often wondered why some people could rise above great adversity, while others, just as brave and smart, go under. All I know is that my daddy called that quality "gumption". I wanted to write about people that had gumption, and those who didn't". Well whether intentional or not (though I expect it was), that is exactly what Miss Tischler-blue has done here.
As most will know, Lita Ford and Joan Jett managed to escape the musical ghetto that was The Runaways, to find great success in the music business. The original bassist is now a successful attorney. Cheri Currie, although never achieving the same level of success, managed to find work in Hollywood for many years, and has continued with a low-profile music and art career. Sandy West, however was plagued with misfortune after her band dissolved, falling into desperately hard times, both financially, and otherwise, and much of this is explored unflinchingly in Edgeplay.
This film works on so many levels that I sometimes am awed by it. When you watch it the first time, you see and hear the story of a rock band. When you watch it a second time however, you begin to become absorbed by the enormous differences in these women. All but one of the members, now in middle-age and 25 years away from The Runaways, still carry deep emotional scars from their experiences, that seem to transcend anything that has happened to them since. All but one of them breaks down on camera in a way that's agonizing to watch. Is it really possible to carry resentment from teenaged slights and squabbles into middle age? Once the women start talking to Miss Blue's camera, you find out that you can indeed.
The only one who does not seem affected by her experiences so long ago is Lita Ford, who I found, quite unexpectedly, the most fascinating of all. After 4 decades or so of life, I like to think I know false bravado when I see it, and yet in Lita I saw none. It's amazing to watch her face as she walks back over the same old paths as the others while recounting her experiences, and yet, to her, it was almost like describing a movie she had seen, and enjoyed, but could only partially remember; not because it wasn't exciting, but because, well....it was only a movie. Lita ends-up being Edgeplay's Scarlett O'Hara. The one who had gumption.
Of course Joan Jett became a star as well, but we'll never know her thoughts and feelings on things, as she declined to participate in the film. As I understand it, she was violently opposed to the film, it apparently not focusing enough on her, and did everything in her power to crush the film before it could be released. This is utterly mystifying, as her treatment in the film is not-at-all negative, and if anything, she comes across as rather inoffensive and hard-working. Very strange.
Edgeplay is, in many ways, the "Clockwork Orange" of rock documentaries. From the dark, sadonic tales of excess and loss-of-innocence, to the startlingly effective and moody camerawork, (which usually annoys me, but here served a real dramatic purpose for a change), this is a film that anyone can get something out of, whether you're a Runaways fan or not.
After posting a review of Edgeplay on another site, I was amazed and delighted to recive an email from the director of the film, thanking me for my good review, and expressing her relief that someone "got" what she was trying to achieve with Edgeplay. Yes Victory, because of your long journey in making this poignant, affirming, yet disturbing documentary, we all got more than we could have hoped for. Don't worry. You did good.