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Running With Scissors

Drama movie directed by Ryan Murphy

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Humanizing Augusten Burroughs: A Model of Screenplay Adaptation

  • Feb 8, 2007
  • by
For those legions of us who delighted in Augusten Burroughs' sharing of his exceedingly warped childhood in the memoir RUNNING WITH SCISSORS, this book to film transformation will be revelatory and extremely satisfying. Until watching the DVD (not expecting a book of this nature could be successfully molded into a film, much less be a platform for Annette Bening to garner Golden Globe accolades for a role like Deirdre), it is impossible to believe that such a fine book could and is an even better movie. Kudos to writer, director, producer Ryan Murphy for taking a one-person standup comedy book and mold it into a riotously funny and at the same time deeply moving story about the effects of childhood on our personality development.

Augusten (first as 6-year old Jack Kaeding and later as brilliantly transformed by the very talented Joseph Cross) is a conflicted child whose mother Deirdre (Annette Bening in an Oscar deserving performance) is a bipolar poet wannabe with delusions of grandeur who drives her alcoholic husband Norman (Alec Baldwin) out of the house, preferring instead to form a lesbian relationship with Fern (Kristin Chenoweth) from one of her wildly dysfunctional poetry groups. Deirdre's psychiatrist Dr. Finch (the always superb Brian Cox) plies her with pills and ultimately is the one to whom Deirdre gives Augusten up for adoption. Finch lives in a grotesque house, but no more absurd than his mad family: his wife Agnes (Jill Clayburgh) eats cat kibbles and appears to be quite mad; Hope (Gwyneth Paltrow) is possessed by God and follows holy commands to bury the cat Freud; Natalie (Evan Rachel Wood) whose perception of her wild family leads her to be Augusten's ally; and Neil Bookman (Joseph Fiennes) a strange dark man who lives in a shed and introduces Augusten to his true sexual identity. In this madhouse Augusten manipulates his way toward understanding adults and free thought, savoring his unusual experiences as fodder for later use, and getting a handle on his own dreams and ultimate escape from his twisted childhood to run off to New York and become a writer!

The characters, no matter how bizarre and wacky, each have redeeming values, much to the finessing by Ryan Murphy of Augusten Burroughs' memoir. What could have been a raucous mess of a film Murphy, with Burroughs' blessing, transformed into a sensitive statement about relationships, family, extended family, and the degree that harsh reality can actually supplant the growth of an artist. The cast is uniformly splendid - Annette Bening is amazingly three-dimensional - and the choice of Joseph Cross as Augusten is completely on target for this re-thinking of an impossible book to film. Highly recommended, but do read the book, too! Grady Harp, February 07

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More Running With Scissors reviews
review by . August 17, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
* out of ****    At the age of twelve, Augusten Burroughs found himself the sole child in the middle of a rough marriage. His father (Alec Baldwin) - an alcoholic - and his mother Deidre (Annette Bening) - a psychotic - fought constantly and eventually their kitchen-bound warfare of both the physical and emotional variety got so intense that Burroughs' mother sent him to live with her psychiatrist, Dr. Finch (Brian Cox); a good doctor, according to Deidre. The Finch house is …
review by . July 23, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
15 - 116mins - Comedy/Drama - 2nd February 2007    Strange one this. Augusten Burroughs (Joseph Cross) was born into a dysfunctional family. With his father (Alec Baldwin) an alcoholic and a mentally unstable mother (Annette Bening) who lives in a delusional world where her belief that she has what it takes to become the world's greatest poet is only surpassed by her attempts to achieve her goal, it's unsurprising to find that his life has been impacted greatly from a young age.   …
review by . April 22, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
...they'll seem like the poster children for mental and emotional health, after watching this film!      Augusten Burroughs (Joseph Cross) grows up in a household with his mother, Deirdre (Annette Benning), who has severe mental stability issues. I am no psychiatrist so I am not even going to try to label her. He also has an alcoholic father, Norman (Alec Baldwin), who seems to have little to no interest in his son. In fact, because of his absence, I thought at the beginning …
review by . April 15, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
Like others, I decided to see "Running With Scissors" based on a trailer I saw that presented it as a dark, eccentric comedy. The cast looked more than promising, and I love quirky movies, but I shut this one off after watching an hour of venom-filled yelling and swearing. It's very unusual for me to not watch a film in its entirety, but I felt I was completely wasting my time and turned it off. I didn't like any of the characters, although I felt some degree of sympathy for the boy (not enough …
review by . February 22, 2007
"Running With Scissors"    A Twisted Childhood      Amos Lassen and Cinema Pride    "Running With Scissors" has been a greatly anticipated movie due to the success of the book and it doesn't disappoint. It is a fairly sick and twisted story of a young boy who is caught up in the mental abuse, drug use and mental illness in his family. Because it is a true story, it is sometimes not easy to watch but it is the story of survival …
About the reviewer
Grady Harp ()
Ranked #96
Grady Harp is a champion of Representational Art in the roles of curator, lecturer, panelist, writer of art essays, poetry, critical reviews of literature, art and music, and as a gallerist. He has presented … more
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Annette Bening is the stand-out highlight in this dysfunctional "family" comedy based on the bestselling memoir by Augusten Burroughs. Although fans of the book may be slightly disappointed with the film's uneven and somewhat campy rendition of Burroughs' twisted adolescence in the 1970s, there's plenty of pleasure to be found in the work of an excellent cast led by Bening, who gives a subtle dare-to-hate-me performance as Burroughs' mother Diedre, a would-be poet who's so aloof about her teenage son Augusten (played by fresh-faced newcomer Joseph Cross, fromFlags of Our Fathers) that she allows him to be legally adopted into the eccentric family of her psychiatrist, Dr. Finch (Brian Cox). As the half-crazed Finch overmedicates Diedre into a haze of semi-conscious madness, he also turns Augusten's life upside down while his wife (Jill Clayburgh) and daughters (Gwyneth Paltrow, Evan Rachel Wood) indulge their own eccentricities and Augusten enters into an intimate relationship with one of Finch's adopted patients (played by Joseph Fiennes).

As adapted and directed by Nip/Tuck creator Ryan Murphy, Running with Scissors lacks the singular voice of Burroughs' dryly comedic first-person narrative, but even as the film struggles to find a consistent tone, it's so full of wacky behavior that you can't help laughing. It's a messy, patchwork quilt of a movie, blessed by authentically garish '70s production design and a soundtrack of familiar '70s hits. In ...

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Director: Ryan Murphy
Genre: Drama
DVD Release Date: February 6, 2007
Runtime: 116 minutes
Studio: Sony Pictures
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