Bad Reputation review – smart, funny Joan Jett rock retrospective

The proto-punk icon comes over as generous and self-aware in Kevin Kerslake’s documentary, which ropes in starry friends like Debbie Harry and Iggy Pop

It is an odd but all-too-common phenomenon that cinematic biographies about musical stars often leave the viewer liking the subject less as a person, sometimes in direct proportion to how much he or she liked the subject’s work beforehand. (See, for example, Nina Simone bio-doc What Happened, Miss Simone? and the Lady Gaga tribute Gaga: Five Foot Two.) It’s pleasing to report that’s not the case with Bad Reputation, a career-long retrospective devoted to rock star Joan Jett, who comes across here every bit as funny, smart, self-aware and generous as you could hope for. Ageing gracefully now that she’s into her seventh decade, Jett reflects with honesty on her career highs and lows, from her early days as a founder member of proto-punk girl-group the Runaways to the solo-star years of her hits I Love Rock ’n’ Roll and the titular Bad Reputation and acting side gigs – clips showing her in Paul Schrader’s now-rarely-seen Light of Day are worth the price of admission alone – to her most recent apotheosis as grand old dame and mentor to the young.

Director Kevin Kerslake moves the story along at a nice adagio pace, swerving into the archives to unearth vintage clips of not just Jett and her coevals performing but also David Bowie and one-time Runaways manager Kim Fowley, a troubling, multifaceted character, taking about the high times on Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip in the mid-70s. In addition, there’s a fairly starry lineup of Jett fans and friends offering insights, including Debbie Harry, Miley Cyrus and Iggy Pop. But the big treat is seeing Jett herself talk and watching her still-strong bond with producer and best friend Kenny Laguna: two leather-clad old mates, constantly bickering but inseparable.


Leslie Felperin

The GuardianTramp

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