BluRay/DVD Reviews

RUNNING WITH SCISSORS

By • Feb 6th, 2007 •

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Like the memoirist, I would have blossomed in that family, especially if I had the fearless Annette Bening as a narcissist, drug-addled mother.

This is actually one book I might go out and buy. The intrusive music would be missing.

The only thing Leo Tolstoy never realized was that an unhappy childhood could make a person rich and famous.*

With memoirs now suspect, Augusten Burroughs’ best selling “Running With Scissors” has been made into a movie written and directed by the creator of my favorite TV show, “Nip/Tuck,” Ryan Murphy. When is the sexiest man on TV – Dr. Christian Troy – going to dive deep into the sexual pool and do it with a guy?

Christian Troy is too promiscuous to limit himself to women only.

RWS is the story of Augusten’s (Joseph Cross) miserable life – his parents hate each other. His mother, Deirdre (Annette Bening), is a selfish, narcissist fantasist who has come to believe that her husband, Norman (Alec Baldwin), is sabotaging her creativity. Deirdre fancies herself a poet who must suffer. Her shrink, Dr. Finch (Brian Cox), strongly advises she leave Norman and allow Augusten to live at Finch’s garbage-filled house. Augusten, 13 years old, desperately calls his emotionally distant father, who refuses to take his calls.

He is now living with Dr. Finch, and Deirdre – housed in a nearby motel – is in the grip of five-hour, valium-chewing sessions with Dr. Finch. The Finch household includes Finch’s homely wife, Agnes (Jill Clayburgh), who is the emblem of Finch’s cruelty, daughter Hope (Gwyneth Paltrow), her father’s Martin Bormann, and younger daughter Natalie (luminous Evan Rachel Wood), who is an angry sex kitten. When Augusten tells Natalie he is gay, she introduces him to her father’s patient, 35-year-old schizophrenic Neil Bookman (Joseph Fiennes, finally leaving his fey lover-boy affection for a dazzling role).

Augusten begins a sexual affair with Neil, who hears voices and might kill.

Instead of Augusten using this environment to express himself without condemnation, he is merely an observer and chronicler of the free chaos around him. Augusten should have been played by a real 13 year old with acne. Cross does not hold the center and this is the fault of Murphy. How gay should Augusten be? His nod to extravagance is a strip of material used as a scarf.

Annette Bening is fearless as she plunges head first into the character. Augusten doesn’t seem to relate appropriately to finding out his mother has finally found lesbianism. Shouldn’t he be more tolerant?

Yes, you want to hate Deirdre, but she is being manipulated by fecal-fascinated Dr. Finch! Wood and Fiennes indulge themselves in the bold characters Murphy has written for them. Paltrow uses her ice-blue natural negativity to good effect, but the character of Hope is shallow. Why hairdresser-wannabe Augusten didn’t doll up Agnes bothered me – couldn’t he have just washed her hair? – and I would have liked to know if he dedicated “Running With Scissors” to her. She was his secret champion.

* The famous first line of “Anna Karenina:” “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

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