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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Running With Scissors

Starring: Annette Bening, Joseph Cross, Gwyneth Paltrow, Brian Cox, Joseph Fiennes, Alec Baldwin, Evan Rachel Wood, Kristin Chenoweth

Running With Scissors
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Synopsis: Adapted from the 320 page bestselling book by Augusten Burroughs published by Picador "Running with Scissors: A Memoir". The true story tells of a boy who is given away by his mother to her psychiatrist. Augusten lived with the doctor's odd family, became friends with a pedophile and had some rather strange experiences in his life including electro-shock therapy as a means of entertainment.

Review: Your mother always told you not to run with scissors. Well ‘Running with Scissors’ did and it poked itself in the eye.

A top-notch cast of Annette Bening, Gwyneth Paltrow, Brian Cox, Joseph Fiennes, Jill Clayburgh, and Kristin Chenoweth is not just wasted but criminally wasted.

This is a depressing fact-based story of a teenager, Augusten Burroughs (Joseph Cross) ‘a wry traveler through a childhood hell’. Its set in the 70’s when society was transforming with new ideas – women’s movement, free love, communal living and tolerance.

Burroughs is forced to care for his mentally ill mother Deirdre (Bening) after she abandoned him, even as he struggles with his own issues of homosexuality and direction. His mother was never emotionally present to tell him not to run with scissors.

Without a functioning mother or father, Augusten is sent to live with mom’s psychiatrist. The shrink (Cox) is as debilitated as she is, incapable of running his own life and family and nursing a hidden agenda. He is controlling and disinterested in his patients’ mental health.

He’s after power of attorney/money and it suits him to keep patients ill.

They live in a dilapidated Victorian the family uses as a garbage can. One horrible character after another appears, does damage and joins the ersatz family that soon includes mother, son, psychiatrist, his family and various hangers-on and lovers.

Deirdre won’t allow Augusten to see his father, her estranged husband (Baldwin) which seems a shame. The man seems conventional and capable of love, but is starting to drown in booze, presumably after years of struggles with his barely functioning, angry wife.

Running With Scissors Running With Scissors Running With Scissors Running With Scissors
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Are you hooked yet?

Bening puts in a marvelous performance. It is reported that she has always wanted to play a mentally ill character and she does it with gusto and intelligence. She immerses Deirdre in her time, the 70’s, when the women’s movement was in full flower and creative expression was considered more important than many things. Deirdre abandoned her son to follow her own creative path. Bening says she has sympathy for Deirdre, even if we don’t.

The film asks us to indulge these people and we do, but it’s not a fun experience.

There is no entertainment or enlightenment here.

Film can be fun, depressing, sad, uplifting, whatever. But they should be good or worthwhile.

‘Running with Scissors’ is just so wrapped up in its own misery that running with scissors suddenly seems like a good idea.


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