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Running With Scissors

Drama movie directed by Ryan Murphy

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A Twisted Childhood

  • Feb 22, 2007
  • by
"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 against really challenging odds. I found that the movie had shades of Charles Dickens in it in that it is the story of a young man being orphaned by his living parents and the underlying psychological darkness of the youth's adventures. The book by Augusten Burroughs (who gained instant fame because of it) was written in 2002 deals with the homosexuality of the boy and his mother as well as the sexual relationship between the boy and an older man and these aspects are much larger in the film than in the book.
We take a walk through Burrough's adolescence and watch him discover himself--the discoveries he makes are based upon the estrangement of his parents who grew disillusioned with each other. This journey is one of experiences remembered and not experiences that actually came to be.
Annette Bening plays Dierdre, Augusten's mother, and does so in an amazingly tender portrayal. It is rumored early that his is an Oscar caliber performance yet t was forgotten come nomination time. Yet the movie belongs to her and she is brilliant--no make-up, just a wonderful job of acting.
What colors the film is a child's memories of a period left behind and just recently looked back upon. A world is recreated that seems distant yet painful. The adults in this world are the ghosts of ambitions never realized and all that is left of them is their poisonous eccentricity. Because of this the movie seems to go over the top in terms of realism. This is what makes the movie so funny as psychological manipulation is adroitly displayed.
Other great performances are turned in by Alec Baldwin and Jill Clayburgh but Joseph Cross as Augusten Burroughs acts like he is walking through and then fades into the background. For those who read the book, the movie is an unsatisfying adaptation. The film loses itself when it can't decide if it is a drama or a comedy. But Burroughs had the same problem in deciding what his life was.
This could have been a great movie but instead it comes in as only a good one. The family that young Augusten is sent to live with--the crazy Finch family is a roller coaster ride of emotions. A lot of the laughter comes as a result feeling the sadness of the situation. Waxing nostalgic about one's youth can be great fun but none when it is presented tastelessly. The gay sense were dry and bland and I think that the opinion we get of Augusten Burroughs is that his childhood was a sick experience that has him laughing all the way to the bank.
Many of the reviews that I have read completely discredit the movie and several call "Running With Scissors" the worst movie ever made. Guys--ease up. A great movie it is not but it is a good one. It is so far fetched that it seems as if it cannot possibly be true. I love the way Burroughs writes and the movie pays the same attention to detail as do his books. I like the movie--in fact; I liked it a great deal so I guess I am at odds with many of the critics. You make the decision.

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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 . February 08, 2007
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 …
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 …
About the reviewer
Amos Lassen ()
Ranked #215
I am an academic who reivews movies and books of interest to the GLBT and Jewish communities.   I came to Arkansas after having been relocated here due to Hurricane Katrina. I was living in … more
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About this movie


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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