“Bad Reputation” is less the life of Joan Jett, and more a publicity movie for Joan Jett fans. If you want to come to this documentary looking to learn about Joan Jett, warts and all, and how she turned music on its ass, then you’re going to walk away from this disappointed. If you want to celebrate everything about Joan Jett, and ignore all the nasty stuff, you’ll love “Bad Reputation” which very clearly has Joan Jett looming over it and calling the shots. “Bad Reputation” isn’t a disaster like “Bohemian Rhapsody” when all is said and done.
It doesn’t ignore every single controversy and nasty element about the career of Jett and the darkness of her younger life. It’s an okay documentary with Joan Jett chronicling her entire life, and I could listen to Jett speak for hours. She’s one of my personal heroes. But while watching “Bad Reputation” it was quite obvious that I wasn’t watching everything about Jett right down to her nastiness. It was everything about Joan Jett that you could root for, and feel proud of. That’s not human, that’s not even rock and roll. During the middle of the film after the formation of the Runaways, Jett explains how Sid and Nancy visited her and how she hung out with them.
There’s even discussion on how she hung around some of the hardest punk rockers of all time, but there’s little to no mention of anything else. Were there hard drugs? Was there a lot of sex? Were some crimes committed? How did Jett feel about being one of the few rockers not to die before thirty? How does Joan Jett approach the ambiguity about her sexuality? Why has she been so evasive? Does she think people will define her by her sexuality and not her music? What did Jett’s family think of her? Why did Kim Fowley take advantage of Cherie Curie and produce what was basically kiddy porn for their tour book? Was Kim Fowler grooming the girls in the group? Why did the Runaways break up? What did Jett do with the Blackhearts? Did she have any lovers?
Is Joan relatively considered a stand up woman by most, or does she have a streak of nastiness like a lot of musicians? There are only vague hints of answers to these questions with director Kevin Kerslake displaying obvious hesitation to dig deeper. What were the legal repercussions of the abuse Joan and the Runaways experience on stage? Who gives a crap what Miley Cyrus thinks of her? Jett is a bad ass, she’s a force of nature, its just too bad that “Bad Reputation” is an all around mediocre rock documentary. Joan Jett deserves a great documentary that definitively celebrates who she is and how iconic she will always be, warts and all. I’m fine reveling in the almost supernatural Joan Jett I just wish that we could have been given a peek behind the curtain.