Running With Scissors [DVD] 
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Comedy based on the popular autobiographical novel by Augusten Burroughs. A child of the 1970s whose alcoholic father Norman (Alec Baldwin) and delusional, unpublished poet mother Deidre (Annette Benning) could serve as dictionary definition of the word 'dysfunctional', Augusten (Joseph Cross) is sent by his mother to live with her eccentric psychiatrist Dr. Finch (Brian Cox). Finch's house is a sprawling, decrepit mansion filled with strange things and his even stranger family. Suddenly thrust into an environment that is as unfamiliar as it is unpredictable, young Augusten forms a curious relationship with Natalie (Evan Rachel Wood) one of the doctor's two whimsical daughters while learning to adapt and survive under even the most unusual of circumstances. He also discovers a fledgling gay tendency with one of Finch's former patients, the suave-but-unstable Bookman (Joseph Fiennes).
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, from Flags 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 rendering Burroughs' indelible portrait of weak, irresponsible adults and the people they victimise, Murphy and his well-chosen cast (which also includes Alec Baldwin as Diedre's ex-husband) find moments of touching pathos amidst the madness. For her part, Bening delivers an acclaimed performance that gives the film a dramatic weight it otherwise lacks. The rest is for anyone who enjoys a laugh at the freak-show expense of damaged and damaging characters. --Jeff Shannon --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
The story centers around Augusten's (Joseph Cross) relationship with his mentally ill mom Deirdre, played with great veracity by the legendary Annette Bening. It's the early 1970's and Deirdre is just beginning to break into her stride as self-avowed feminist and poet.
Deirdre has decided that poetry is her gift the world and the fact that no magazine has bothered to print her verse shows that the world is engaged in a vast plot to deny her the fame and wealth she so clearly deserves. As she gravitates from an almost narcissistic personality disorder to manic-depression and then on to a type of passive aggression, she takes her anger out on Augusten's alcoholic father, Norman (Alec Baldwin).
Desperate for help, Deirdre ends up packing her poor son off to live with her quack psychiatrist with issues of his own, a sort of dementedly benevolent Rasputin-like character named Dr. Finch (Brian Cox) who divines the future from his bowel movements and hands out prescription drugs like candy. He lives in what seems to be a terminally dilapidated house, with the IRS always hot on his trail.Read more ›
The book is Burrough's account of his childhood when his crazy mother leaves him to be looked after by her even crazier shrink and his family. It's a remarkable achievement as the author manages to make the often alarming events of his upbringing touching and funny.
The film, though an accurate (but abridged) reflection of the book, seems to miss out on the fact that it's supposed to be a comedy. This is chiefly because it makes Augusten's mother the focus of the plot, when in the book it's her absence which is the driving force. Annette Bening does a fine portrayal of mental derangement but only captures the flavour of the novel occassionally, in for example, a bizarre poetry-reading she organises for her would-be literary friends.
I liked Evan Rachel Wood's performance as Augusten's friend Natalie but she's only given a little screen time, when she should really be a central character. My favourite scenes in the novel - diving through the college waterfall and a trip whale-watching off Cape Cod - involve her but are omitted entirely here.
The only time the movie truly flickered into life for me was during the closing credits, when the real-life Augusten Burroughs stands next to the actor playing his young self. But this single moment of playfulness and humour (qualities seen repeatedly in the book), isn't enough to save a film.
Bening dominates the film, as Deirdre Burroughs, the failed poet and mother who turns to an insane and dominating psychiatrist for help, becomes hooked on prescription medication and abandons her child to him. She is by turns charming, beautiful, vicious, selfish, obtunded and psychotic. The brittleness, physicality and truth of her performance are brilliant.
The rest of the cast all put in good or great performances, in particular Agnes Finch, the downtrodden wife of the mad Dr Finch, Neil Bookman, the psychotic adoptive brother, who becomes Augusten's lover and Natalie, his desperate and insightful half-sister.
And yet despite the individual performances, this film never quite comes together, which is a great shame. It lacks neither character nor incident and yet it drags in the middle. There are scenes which will stay me, which made it worth sitting through and so I cannot say this is a bad film, just not as great as it should have been and so nearly was.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Arrived on time in excellent condition. A weird and wonderful film, charting the ups and downs of a very dysfunctional family and their meeting with a vry dysfunctional... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Howard Wright
...the book is better though. But I would say it was worth a watch just because this stuff really did happen to Augusten!Published on 20 Feb. 2014 by Hannah L. Clark
Before I bought this, I was intrigued to know how they could possibly have filmed the book accurately. They didn't. Read morePublished on 22 Mar. 2013 by pipnuts
A complete waste of money.who writes this stuff ?.I bought this on the strength of Patrick Wilson's name,he was on screen all of 10 seconds.Published on 3 Jan. 2013 by Mrs. Margaret L. Fletcher