Bad Reputation: A Joan Jett Documentary

Joan Jett in BAD REPUTATION, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

Through interviews and archival footage, Bad Reputation shows how Joan Jett opened the doors for women to have a career in rock music.

It’s not easy for anyone to make it in rock and roll but as is the case in any field, being a woman makes it harder to break in.  The biggest rocker of them all gets a documentary profile allowing us not just a glimpse into her life but how she made it.

“Cabaret, Hollywood, and the idea of playing music all fused into one,” Jett says early on.

This is mostly basic as far as documentaries are concerned.  Nothing revealed seems to be too earth-shattering.  But because the film focuses on a musician, you can be assured of a rocking good time.  The basic hits get covered, whether it’s “Cherry Bomb” during her days with The Runaways or “I Love Rock and Roll” from her solo career.   The latter of course was a huge hit but Jett is more than a musician.  She’s bigger than any one song.

After The Runaways disbanded, Jett formed Blackheart Records along with her band, The Blackhearts.  The record label, run together with producing partner Kenny Laguna, came about following many rejections.  At some point, you may as well take charge and start one yourself, right?  This is exactly what happens and the film goes into how the label was founded back in 1980.  It’s honestly hard to believe that Jett’s recordings of the following songs were turned down by some 23 record labels: “I Love Rock N’ Roll,” “Crimson and Clover,” “Do You Want To Touch Me (Oh Yeah),” and “Bad Reputation.”

There has been a lot of debate about Jett’s sexuality over the years.  Is she a lesbian or is she bisexual?  The film doesn’t get into this outside of the location of an early performance by The Runaways.  I’m not really going to get into it either.  One person in the film, whose name escapes me, believes that more people should use their voice to beyond their art.  This quote came shortly after an interview with Laura Jane Grace.  The punk rocker came out in 2012.    Grace says in an interview that Jett was very supportive of her coming out.  The interview is shortly followed by a performance of “Androgynous” with Grace, Miley Cyrus, and Jett.

Appropriately, the documentary closes on Jett’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.  Jett was introduced by Miley Cyrus.  The induction was long overdue by ten years given the Rock Hall requirements.

Telling the story of Joan Jett, Bad Reputation shows how she opened the door for women in rock.  The rest as they say is history!

DIRECTOR:  Kevin Kerslake
FEATURING:  Joan Jett, Kenny Laguna, Carianne Brinkman, Adam Horovitz, Alison Mosshart, Anne Larkin, Bill Curbishley, Billie Joe Armstrong, Cherie Currie, Chris Stein, Debbie Harry, Dana White, Don Bolles, Dougie Needles, Elliot Saltzman, Eric Amble, Evelyn McDonnell, Gary Ryan, Gene Baur, General Kevin Byrnes, Ian MacKaye, Iggy Pop, Kathleen Hanna, Kristen Stewart, Laura Jane Grace, Meryl Laguna, Michael J. Fox, Michelle Cho, Mike Ness, Miley Cyrus, Nikki Haley, Pete Townshend, Phanie Diaz, Rodney Bingenheimer, Sally Hershberger, Toby Mamis, Thom Panunzio, Thommy Price

Bad Reputation held it’s world premiere during the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Magnolia Pictures will open the film in theaters and VOD platforms on September 28, 2018.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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