Director: Ryan Murphy
Cast: Annette Bening, Joseph Cross, Gwyneth
Paltrow, Jill Clayburgh, Brian Cox, Joseph Fiennes, Evan Rachel
Wood, Alec Baldwin
RunTime: 1 hr 56 mins
Released By: Columbia TriStar
Day: 8 Feb 2007 (Exclusively at Cathay Cineplex)
"Running with Scissors" is the hilarious
and poignant feature film based on the personal memoirs of
Augusten Burroughs. Growing up in the 1970's, young Augusten
(Joseph Cross) was living a middle-class existence with an
alcoholic father (Alec Baldwin) and a bipolar mother (Annette
Bening), an unpublished poet with delusions of becoming famous.
When his parents divorce, Augusten's mother sends him to live
with her wildly unorthodox psychiatrist, Dr. Finch (Brian
Cox) and his eccentric extended family. "Running with
Scissors" chronicles Augusten's survival under the most
extraordinary of circumstances.
Teeming with impossible characters and unreal situations,
it’s an understatement to say “Running With Scissors”
was strange. It was so strange it bordered on discomfort,
and where so many Hollywood forays into the theme of the dysfunctional
family have endeared and amused (think: Wes Anderson’s
excellent “The Royal Tenenbaums”), this movie
unfortunately took off, derailed and crashed.
about Augusten Burroughs (Joseph Cross), the movie follows
him as a child dealing with his parents’ nasty relationship,
then later as a fourteen-year-old dealing with his mother
Dierdre’s (Annette Benning) deteriorating mental health
as her divorce is being finalized. Around this time Dierdre
begins sessions with her psychiatrist Dr. Finch (Brian Cox),
whose shady financial status compels him to move his practice
to his junkyard of a home. Confined for hours on end at Dr.
Finch’s ghastly house while his mother is on consultation,
Augusten befriends the doctor’s daughter, Natalie Finch
(Evan Rachel Wood); the two bond but go no further –
Augusten is gay.
passing characters include the other Finch daughter Hope (Gwyneth
Paltrow), who scans the Bible for life guidance, the Finch
son Neil (Joseph Fiennes), who is confusing and menacing to
his family and audiences alike. Dr. Finch’s wife Agnes
(Jill Clayburgh) is the designated emotional anchor but the
unpolished writing renders her character not so much subtle
as flat; the relationship Augusten supposedly develops with
her is hardly affecting in the end. The only plausible connection
is between Augusten and Natalie, who are kindred spirits as
a result of their common normalcy.
promising cast largely disappoints, with the exception of
Evan Rachel Wood who effortlessly commands every scene she’s
in with a vulnerable and spunky performance – she’s
easily the movie’s only respite. Annette Benning’s
character is increasingly grating and tedious; Dierdre’s
mental illness hardly affects sympathy as it comes across
self-involved. Gwynath Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes leave little
impression; Brian Cox and Jill Clayburgh are so boxed in by
their limited characters that they become caricatures. In
a movie that could have been substantially boosted by convincing
acting, the cost of such distant performances is great.
screenplay may well have derived from a biographical memoir
but the uninspired direction, writing and casting combine
to make “Running With Scissors” so incredibly
far-fetched that it’s out of reach. It’s quite
simply impossible to believe, much less empathise, with characters
who, towards the end of the movie, are seriously examining
stool samples for prophetic signs. In general the comedy is
sputtering and inconsistent, culminating in desperate attempts
at outlandish humour that are distasteful enough to offend.
By the time the stool sample bit ended it seemed the movie
had exhausted all its resources and was well on its way to
obscurity, as though acknowledging in defeat the impossible
task of making such an unlikely story plausible.
more adept direction, especially in the art department, a
tighter screenplay and a better eye for what could have worked
and what wouldn’t, “Running With Scissors”
might have been better than it is. Sadly it isn’t, and
the result is an empty and disappointing movie that’s
uncomfortable with its own strangeness.
poorly executed movie that stalled and never went beyond the
first fifteen minutes)
by Angeline Chui