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Overall Rating

Awesome: 6.67%
Worth A Look: 2.22%
Average: 22.22%
Pretty Bad: 33.33%
Total Crap35.56%

5 reviews, 15 user ratings

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Running With Scissors
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Erik Childress

"Wished Some Of The Characters Would Have Tried That"
1 stars

If you’ve done nothing with your life except write a book about your life, chances are most people really don’t give a shit. Oprah-nize it all you want as the book club selection of the month, but what do you have to say about your meaningless life that’s worth me shelling out twenty-five bucks for a hardcover? I’ll simplify it further. Do you think any event you have lived through could work as a movie? If so, type up a three-page treatment for me and I’ll write you a screenplay. Is it as interesting as the Dickensian tale of a boy legally adopted by his divorced parents’ shrink and the Grey Gardens-esque homelife he wades in and out of? Cause that’s Augusten Burroughs’ pitch. And its not a bad start, despite having no idea who in the hell Augusten Burroughs is. But Ryan Murphy’s treatment of it is the worst kind of cinematic parable; a self-aware mixture of quirk and depression populated by some of the most oppressively infuriating characters imaginable.

Augusten’s mom, Deirdre (Annette Bening), is under the delusion that she’s a brilliant poet. She practices her suppressed rage through words in front of her young son and criticizes fellow up-and-coming feminists for creating works about pretty flowers. Her husband, Norman (Alec Baldwin), is an alcoholic, partially fueled over his increased distance from his wife and his oddball son. “I really don’t see any of me in you at all,” he sadly pronounces. After a near domestic one evening, Deirdre gets Norman to accompany her on a shrink session with their son’s allergist, Dr. Finch (Brian Cox). His first arrival into the picture is framed much the same way Max Von Sydow made his famous entrance as The Exorcist. The hands only get heavier from here.

After the doctor labels dad borderline psychotic (a rather extreme diagnosis under the circumstances), he hides Deirdre from sight and watches over Augusten (Joseph Cross) until his advice leads to the aforementioned adoption papers. His pink, columned house is an eyesore with garbage littering the ins and outs. His wife (Jill Clayburgh) is a borderline catatonic who eats dog kibble and watches Dark Shadows all day. His eldest daughter, Hope (Gwyneth Paltrow), whom he claims as his favorite believes she can talk to animals. And the youngest, Natalie, is the foul-mouthed rebellious sexpot which means she can only be played by Evan Rachel Wood, as evidenced already in Thirteen, Pretty Persuasion and Down in the Valley.

If Burroughs and Murphy intend to draw humor from this predicament, they should have realized that it’s hard to mock an absolute pathetic through the eyes of a character we’ve already seen polish his allowance because he likes shiny things. Augustin is a problem becoming a supporting character in his own story, not because he doesn’t have the screen time but for being a blank slate of a human being. His journal narration couldn’t have been improved by Bill Curtis since his writing is of absolute zero consequence to both his state of being and his potential as a writer. Who are you, Augustin? What have we learned from the 1972 prologue? Exactly what the rest of the film tells us, that you are defined not by your actions but by the people around you. You’re openly gay, you wear suits like you go to private school (even though you avoid education at all costs) and, as played by Cross, you’re the most boring individual on the planet. Can’t wait to read about THAT!

An even greater cipher is the doctor’s family, whom we never get to truly know beyond their dubious behavior since we keep getting reminded of Deirdre’s condition. She’s riding the Planter’s train to Cuckooville. We get it. Doctor Finch is another headcase altogether though. Estate hygiene notwithstanding, the doctor has some IRS issues yet appears to have a steady slate of patients. His “masturbatorium” is part of his nonchalant declaration that he’s more normal than any of them, but his family life hints at an emotional abuse that’s never touched upon just as two late developments to his character are introduced and quickly forgotten. Natalie continually announces Hope’s problem as vaginal cobwebs, but Natalie’s biggest problem is her inability to just pack up and leave. And Clayburgh’s lifeless matriarch should be the one story thread to counter Augusten’s motherly deficiency, but it does not even come close to earning its heartfelt conclusion; an investment in vain if it led to audiences experiencing a film which is only acceptable under our now more interpretive chapters of the Geneva Convention.

Ryan Murphy’s handling of this rotten stew is not merely content to let its quirks speak for themselves. Every moment meant to come as a shock to Augusten is uber-defined by an agonizingly slow pan to his face as if what’s on the other side of his corneas is going to shake the very foundation of our sensibilities. I lost count how many times this happened but can go straight to the CD to remind me of each song cue. The ‘70s compilation mixed with Nat King Cole is so brazenly cued to its scene changes that a misframing would likely reveal someone sitting and waiting to drop the needle on the vinyl.

Burroughs may indeed be an interesting writer, but we’d have no idea from this treatment of his material. Start with Wes Anderson, amp up the self-awareness and loathing, and then subtract all manner of attention to development of any kind – and you’d probably still have a better film than Running with Scissors. It’s an endurance test for your own sanity and a waste of some serious talent, particularly the likes of Bening, Cox and Joseph Fiennes (as the off-kilter 35 year-old lover of 14 year-old Burroughs) who are acting their hearts out in search of some meaning to this calamity. By the time we get to the clichéd montage of rage where every character gets to scream their pain out in unison, you may witness the stereo age materialize in your very theater as patrons join in to express their hatred of this film.

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originally posted: 10/27/06 14:22:22
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User Comments

1/24/10 art WEIRD MOVIE! 2 stars
12/11/07 art kind of make's you stop and think? 4 stars
2/15/07 Amy Typical suburban neurotic drama...overdone and dull. 3 stars
12/13/06 jdean62 LOVED IT ! Jill Clayburgh was amazing! Annette Was fantastic !! 5 stars
11/10/06 epstein I CAN'T BELIEVE I WASTED TIME AND $ TO SEE THIS 1 stars
11/08/06 Bob Strickland Disappointing 2 stars
11/06/06 Cutting With Feet Is SO such a word as "fullest". See: 1 stars
11/05/06 Asia McGuire Actors delivered fine, everything else was flat. 3 stars
11/04/06 wesley sniper Dude, there's no such word as "fullest" 1 stars
11/02/06 Gasper incohereent but entertining at parts, Fractured but put together well 3 stars
10/31/06 jcjs rivals 'Little Miss Sunshine' as my favorite this year..clever.great acting by all, Bening 5 stars
10/31/06 May Q. Horney Soundtrack CD not nearly as good as the Weird Al Yankovic version! 2 stars
10/31/06 Eric Johnson Freakin' loved it. 5 stars
10/27/06 Tiffany Losco Strange movie 3 stars
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  20-Oct-2006 (R)
  DVD: 06-Feb-2007



Directed by
  Ryan Murphy

Written by
  Ryan Murphy

  Annette Bening
  Brian Cox
  Joseph Fiennes
  Evan Rachel Wood
  Alec Baldwin
  Jill Clayburgh

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