Joan Jett Has A ‘Bad Reputation’ But Still Rocks In Spirited Documentary

Pauline Kael’s first book was I Lost It At The Movies, and though I relate to that sentiment I also have learned a tone in the process. Case in point is Bad Reputation, an illuminating look at the life of Joan Jett that’s now out on DVD.

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

Running at a brisk 93 minutes, Bad Reputation is not an exhaustive documentary on Joan Jett or, for that matter, a paint by numbers look at her greatest hits. Director Kevin Kerslake and writer Joel Marcus know there is much more layers to the rock star behind the anthemic hits “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll” and “I Hate Myself For Loving You.” Since my personal knowledge of Jett, which included her iconic work in punk rock and rock in general, was limited, Bad Reputation served as an intriguing entryway into her one true love.



While this documentary doesn’t dig deep into the rise and dissolution of The Runaways or breaks down each of her album piece by piece, Bad Reputation nonetheless gives us a true feeling for Jett and her unwavering passion for rock. A breakup with The Runaways and the vagaries of the music business could have felled many a mortal, but Jett, as this movie convincingly asserts, continues to rock with the best of them.

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

The most endearing part of Bad Reputation focuses on Jett’s lifelong collaboration and friendship with producer Kenny Laguna, and their constant bickering like a married couple brings a welcome levity to the proceedings. Jett also comes off as a totally committed workhorse in the documentary; whether it’s a state fair or at a large concert, she gives it her all.

Bad Reputation is filled with a ton of talking heads (Debbie Harry, Iggy Pop, Billie Jo Armstrong) discussing Jett’s impact on music and their lives. Bikini Kill frontwoman Kathleen Hanna and Miley Cyrus give absolutely insightful takes on Jett (it’s evident that she has made an impact on their lives), and since I’ll pick up anything related to Fugazi, it’s wonderful to see Ian MacKaye discuss Jett’s DIY spirit.

Michael J. Fox and director Paul Schrader (First Reformed) are also on hand to discuss Jett’s acting work in Light of Day (and let’s not forget that standout, Bruce Springsteen penned title track!!).

“Bad Reputation” DVD comes with collectible guitar picks!

Special features on the DVD include “Backstage: Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony,” “Theater Performance – Bad Reputation & Fresh Start,” and “Sound Check – Bad Reputation & Fresh Start.” Last but not least, a slew of music videos are also on the disc, including “Any Weather” a track from her last album Unvarnished. Other videos include “Bad Reputation,” “Change The World,” “Fake Friends,” “Fetish (Live),” “French Song,” and “Little Liar (Concert Version).”

What are your favorite Joan Jett albums and songs? Feel free to comment below!