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Running With Scissors

Genre: , ,

Cast: Annette Bening, Brian Cox, Joseph Fiennes, Evan Rachel Wood, Alec Baldwin, Jill Clayburgh, Joseph Cross, Gwyneth Paltrow

Director: Ryan Murphy

Rated: R

Review By:
Rocco Passafuime

SUNY Purchase '05

"I don't compromise my values and I don't compromise my work. I won't give in." -Michael Moore

Release Date: February 6th, 2007
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Overall Grade: C+

Running With Scissors

Review By: Rocco Passafuime

Click Here to Read the Theatrical Review!

Running With Scissors

Real life has always more and more managed to make wonderful fodder for great film. Particularly when one's real life tends to be so unusual, it tends to create the great potential for a creative and idiosyncratic movie. Unfortunately, this criteria isn't enough to make Running With Scissors quite the film it could have been.

The story focuses on Augusten Burroughs (Joseph Cross), a gay youth who's dealing with the falling out between his bipolar poet mother Deidre and his alcoholic, workaholic father Norman (Alec Baldwin). While Deidre is engaged in the highly controversial therapy of oddball psychiatrist Dr. Finch (Brian Cox), Augusten is sent to live in the psychiatrist's decrepit home.

There, Augusten must constantly deal with the eccentric members of Finch's family, including frazzled, junk-collecting housewife Agnes (Jill Clayburgh), prissy, peculiar eldest daughter Hope (Gwenyth Paltrow), and free-spirited, tortured youngest daughter Natalie (Evan Rachel Wood). He deals with his lonely solitude by seeking comfort sexually with Finch's schizophrenic adopted son Neil (Ralph Fiennes), who quickly becomes abusive with the much younger Augusten.

As Deidre quickly descends deeper into madness, Augusten soon struggles to find a way to break free of his dysfunctional life, escape his mother, and escape the Finch house. The 15 year old soon finds himself facing complex choices of people twice his age who he seems to be more mature than.

Based on his personal memoirs, Burroughs's story is disturbingly unique and more than enough potential to make into an idiosyncratic film. The potential is also boosted by a fantastic cast, particularly Annette Bening, who delivers a stark-raving mad performance as Deidre. While Joseph Cross is a little too old-looking to play what is supposed to be a 14 year-old, his more-than-adequate prissy and vulnerable portrayal of the young Augusten more than compensates for it.

However, where the film largely fails is in its direction by Nip/Tuck creator Ryan Murphy. While Murphy has great material to work with, he seems to be constantly detached from the proceedings. While he has his actors give tremendous performances, Murphy seems too concerned with trying to be impartial to characters who sometimes do pretty loathsome things to a vulnerable 14 year-old boy. As a result, he fails to make much of what is a particularly disturbing story really make an impact with its viewers.

The DVD's picture quality is in high-definition 2:35:1 anamorphic widescreen ratio, with the sound quality in Dolby Digital 5.1. The DVD also comes with plenty of special features, which are all brief, but adequately informative featurettes.

The first featurette Inside Outsiders interviews the cast and crew about how they relished the opportunity to play such too-unbelievable-to-be-true characters. The second featurette A Personal Memoir By Augusten Burroughs mostly interviews Burroughs and talks about his real-life experiences that shaped his memoirs and the film.

It also goes into how Augusten was

approached to do the film and his interactions with the film's actors. The third featurette Creating The Cuckoo's Nest mostly interviews production designer Richard Sherman about how he was able to recreate every detail of Burroughs's description of the Finch house and how Augusten and the actors were astonished by Sherman's level of detail.

Running With Scissors has a bizarre story that is often incredibly funny in its kookiness, as well as great and often maddening performances from Annette Bening and other fine actors. However, the story's diluted impact as a result of Ryan Murphy's direction may have sadly held it back from its full potential as recreation of an undoubtedly disturbing family life.

Movie Grade: C

DVD Features Grade: B-

Overall Grade: C+

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