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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

To See or Not to See: Running With Scissors

A comedy? A tragedy?

By Jan Stetter/QCFMag.com

Running With Scissors is a movie based on the autobiography of writer Augusten Burroughs. Growing up in a middle class neighborhood in seventies Massachusetts, Augusten had a mother, a father and a dog. A quintessential existence? Think again.

Critically acclaimed author Augusten Burrough’s bizarre life story is told in magnified grandeur through the vehicle of film and the impressive adaptation of the novel Running With Scissors by playwright Ryan Murphy. Supported by an outstanding cast of film veterans such as Annette Benning, Jill Clayburgh, Alec Baldwin, Gwyneth Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes, the acting alone is worthy of Oscar nominations.

Annette Benning and Jill Clayburgh were outstanding in their performances. One played a lost soul who abdicated her relationship with her only child. The other played a character who lost her soul when she lost sight of her dreams. Their performances were penetrating and raw – very courageous for actresses in this youth-obsessed culture to reveal their craft in such a riveting, honest, inelegant and ungraceful setting.

Joseph Cross plays the main character during his teen years. Incredibly, he seems the most normal of all of the bizarre characters in this film. A modulated performance by Cross served well in expressing the pain of his lost childhood. The reversal of roles in his relationship with his mother, Annette Benning, fits neatly into the lunacy of Augusten’s young life. The more erratic Benning’s character became, the more Augsten was forced to be the adult.

If you are a fan of Augusten Burrough’s writing, this movie will satisfy. It is full of crippled characters; specifically a delusional mother, a distant alcoholic father, an unscrupulous psychiatrist and several wounded souls.

My complaint is trailers that set the movie up to be a comedy/dramedy. This movie was far from being a comedy. It was a TRAGEDY. It told the story of a young man’s life spent under the care of a deranged psychiatrist. And how this doctor managed not only to bankrupt his own personal finances, but more importantly forever bankrupt the lives of his wife, children and patients.

They say, “Whatever doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.” For Augusten Burrough, Running With Scissors didn’t kill him. It made him a famous author and a beneficiary of a movie that tells the story of his damaged, unconventional life.


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