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Fans of classic rock are undoubtedly familiar with Joan Jett, the rockstar known for her hit songs such as “I Love Rock and Roll,” “Cherry Bomb,” and the eponymous “Bad Reputation.”

This documentary is about Jett’s career and music, following her from her beginnings in The Runaways through her career with the Blackhearts. It utilizes interviews, concert footage, and archive footage of her previous appearances to tell her story.

For fans of Jett’s music, this documentary has plenty to offer. The film very much focuses on her as a musician rather than as a person. As such, the soundtrack is absolutely pivotal in the movie, dictating both the movement of the story and the flow of the editing.

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bad reputation joan jett guitar
A scene from BAD REPUTATION, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

Since Jett’s music is exceptionally high energy and exciting, the film also exhibits those qualities. The movie is quite kinetic, with a rapid rhythm that makes it hard not to enjoy. Her songs are among the best rock songs of the 1980’s (if not all time), so that alone makes it a fun documentary to watch.

Jett’s charisma also shines through as a reason why the movie is so enjoyable to watch. It is interesting to see how her personality hasn’t changed since her big break. Her rockstar persona commands the screen and steals the spotlight every time it is given a chance. The other interviewees chosen for the film do an excellent job of grabbing attention, too.

The story of how Jett broke onto the scene is a compelling one. Her struggles make her a likable subject and make her a great role model for future generations of musicians. The movie contains some strong positive messaging, promoting both female empowerment and perseverance in pursuing one’s dreams.

bad reputation joan jett studio
Joan Jett in BAD REPUTATION, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

That being said, the documentary is surprisingly shallow. Even though it’s great to hear the excellent music, that doesn’t make the film alone. There are some sequences in which the film begins to explore Jett’s personal life, but these were often cut short in favor of a musical segment. This makes the movie feel more typical, which is slightly disappointing since it is about such a groundbreaking artist.

Additionally, the film has a few weird inconsistencies in its execution, particularly in the cinematography. Some of the modern-day interviews were shot in color, whereas others were shot in black-and-white. These changes are mostly random, without any apparent justification or reasoning behind them.

Overall, Bad Reputation was an enjoyable documentary— but don’t expect it to be particularly insightful. However, the soundtrack makes it worth the price of admission by itself.

Bad Reputation is now in select theaters and on VOD.

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Sean Boelman
Sean is a film student, aspiring filmmaker, and life-long cinephile. For as long as he can remember, he has always loved film; however, he credits the film Pan's Labyrinth as having started his love of film as art. Sean enjoys watching many types of films, although some personal favorite genres include dramatic comedies, romantic comedies, heist films, and art horror.
review-bad-reputation-is-a-rockin-doc<i>Bad Reputation</i> is a very enjoyable documentary that, despite some flaws, manages to capture the spirit of Joan Jett's legendary music career.