Period film: Runaway Daughters

(Image: movies.io)
(Image: movies.io)

Released in 1994, Runaway Daughters was produced by Showtime for their “Rebel Highways” series. It is a remake of a B-movie from 1956.

The “runaway daughters” in question are Angie Gordon (Julie Bowen), Mary Nicholson (Holly Fields) and Laura Cahn (Jenny Lewis), three high school friends who find themselves in a bit of trouble. Mary believes that she’s pregnant after “going too far” with her boyfriend, Bob (Chris Young).

Despite a promise to be supportive, Bob heads off to the Navy, leaving Mary and her predicament in the dust. The three girls decide to run away from their suburban home while Mary makes up her mind about how to handle the pregnancy.

Joe Dante directs this TV movie, which was adapted by Charles Haas from the 1956 film’s screenplay by Lou Rusoff.

This film got off to a bit of a bad start with me because the images in the opening are so incongruous. The film is meant to be set in 1956, and yet there are images of Richard Nixon (who didn’t take office until 1969), various wars, Joseph McCarthy, the atomic bomb, a failed space shuttle launch. Some of these images do suit the year in which the film is set, but some of them are completely inappropriate for the period, which bugged me. There could have been a method to the filmmakers’ madness in choosing these specific images, but if there was, I didn’t decipher it.

Aside from the opening, the film’s visuals are good and have an “authentic” look in general. The color palette, fashion, cars, technology and little bit of de-saturation/film grain give it a decent “’50s” look.

(Image: c1n3.org)
(Image: c1n3.org)

Unfortunately, visuals aside, that incongruous opening should have told me everything that I needed to know about this remake: It isn’t good. I should make note of the fact that I haven’t seen the film it is based on, but I’ve seen (and reviewed) many of the type, and this one falls about ten rungs lower on the movie ranking ladder than the genre it is trying to imitate.

The performances aren’t great, and the dialogue delivery is nothing like exaggerated delivery usually found in the delinquency films that this one is attempting to parody. Julie Bowen is the worst offender of all. Paul Rudd is probably the least obnoxious in this aspect.

For a parody to be successful it must follow the conventions of the genre it’s satirizing with precision, and this film doesn’t do that. Nice visuals aside, it doesn’t seem like a 1950s film. It seems like exactly what it is: 1990s actors in a 1990s film, poorly attempting to imitate the 1950s.

I had very high hopes for Runaway Daughters and was even excited to try to track down more of Showtime’s little remake series, but the film didn’t come close to living up to my expectations, and I won’t be seeking out the rest of the series. The score: 1/5

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One thought on “Period film: Runaway Daughters

  1. Hard to believe that a film with Paul Rudd and Julie Bowen could stink, but I agree: if you can’t get the period right, then don’t even bother. That kind of laziness drives me nuts, and I have those same expectations for baseball films…do your homework and get the baseball scenes right. Some filmmakers actually think that audiences won’t notice, or won’t care, or even shouldn’t care, but trust us, we do.

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