News

Movie review: 'Running With Scissors'

Robert W. Butler
The Kansas City Star

"Running With Scissors" starts out bursting with promise. A seriously mental woman. Her adoring little boy. A psychiatrist crazier than any of his patients. An eccentric-filled funhouse.

Based on Augusten Burroughs' best-selling memoir of growing up dysfunctional, this film promises black comedy, outrageous affrontery and sizzling satire.

And for about 20 minutes it delivers.

After that the movie sinks into a quirky rut and wears out its welcome. It's one thing to give us a cast of major talents playing bizzarro characters. But a movie needs a plot, a dramatic spine, a sense that the characters are growing and changing.

The unhappy inhabitants of "Running With Scissors," though, might as well be frozen in amber. They keep repeating the same crazed scenarios, over and over and over.

Young Augusten (played as a child by the impossibly angelic Jack Kaeding) adores his mother Dierdre (Annette Bening). To him she's beautiful and glamorous and talented. He's an eager audience as she recites stanzas from her self-published book, "A Poet's Struggle."

In fact, Dierdre is seriously demented, convinced of her artistic greatness and devoted to coddling Augusten and making life miserable for her long suffering, quietly inebriated husband (an empathetic Alec Baldwin). At the same time she's miserably unhappy, which is why she's a regular of Dr. Finch (Brian Cox), a goateed shrink whose advice is almost guaranteed to be just the opposite of what the situation requires.

"Get the rage on the page, woman!" he barks at his artistically blocked patient.

Dierdre sends Augusten to live with Dr. Cox's family in a pink columned mansion that's falling apart and littered with junk. It's a little like "You Can't Take It with You" as performed by the residents of a psych ward.

Mrs. Cox (Jill Clayburgh) is a drab housewife addicted to the soap opera "Dark Shadows," which she watches while scarfing handfuls of dog kibble.

The oldest Cox daughter (Gwyneth Paltrow) is a prissy snob who claims she can communicate with cats. The younger one, Natalie (Evan Rachel Wood) is a destructive rebel and sexually aggressive, not that it means much to the teenage Augusten (now played by Joseph Cross), who is gay. And then there's the doctor's thirtysomething son, Neil (Joseph Fiennes), a directionless head case.

Since the Crosses have a tendency to pick up strays, it's hard to say which of these are their genetic offspring and which simply fell into their orbit and have been unable to break free. They're all messed up.

I haven't read Burroughs' memoir, but I gather it was a fascinating blend of the hilarious and the harrowing. This film version by Ryan Murphy (creator of TV's "Nip/Tuck") never goes anywhere and after a while its sameness becomes deadening.

___

RUNNING WITH SCISSORS

2 stars

Director: Ryan Murphy

Cast: Joseph Cross, Brian Cox, Annette Bening, Joseph Fiennes, Gwyneth Paltrow, Evan Rachel Hunter

Rated: R for strong language and elements of sexuality, violence and substance abuse.

Running time: 2:01

Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.

Film

From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?

Music

The 50 Best Songs of 2007

Journey back 13 years to a stellar year for Rihanna, M.I.A., Arcade Fire, and Kanye West. From hip-hop to indie rock and everywhere in between, PopMatters picks the best 50 songs of 2007.

Music

'Modern' Is the Pinnacle of Post-Comeback Buzzcocks' Records

Presented as part of the new Buzzcocks' box-set, Sell You Everything, Modern showed a band that wasn't interested in just repeating itself or playing to nostalgia.

Music

​Nearly 50 and Nearly Unplugged: 'ChangesNowBowie' Is a Glimpse Into a Brilliant Mind

Nine tracks, recorded by the BBC in 1996 show David Bowie in a relaxed and playful mood. ChangesNowBowie is a glimpse into a brilliant mind.

Music

Reaching for the Sky: An Interview with Singer-Songwriter Bruce Sudano

How did Bruce Sudano become a superhero? PopMatters has the answer as Sudano celebrates the release of Spirals and reflects on his career from Brooklyn Dreams to Broadway.

Music

Inventions Conjure Mystery and Hope with the Intensely Creative 'Continuous Portrait'

Instrumental duo Matthew Robert Cooper (Eluvium) and Mark T. Smith (Explosions in the Sky) release their first album in five years as Inventions. Continuous Portrait is both sonically thrilling and oddly soothing.

Music

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch Are 'Live at the Village Vanguard' to Raise Money for Musicians

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch release a live recording from a 2018 show to raise money for a good cause: other jazz musicians.

Music

Lady Gaga's 'Chromatica' Hides Its True Intentions Behind Dancefloor Exuberance

Lady Gaga's Chromatica is the most lively and consistent record she's made since Born This Way, embracing everything great about her dance-pop early days and giving it a fresh twist.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Street Art As Sprayed Solidarity: Global Corona Graffiti

COVID-19-related street art functions as a vehicle for political critique and social engagement. It offers a form of global solidarity in a time of crisis.

Music

Gretchen Peters Honors Mickey Newbury With "The Sailor" and New Album (premiere + interview)

Gretchen Peters' latest album, The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury, celebrates one of American songwriting's most underappreciated artists. Hear Peters' new single "The Sailor" as she talks about her latest project.

Music

Okkyung Lee Goes From Classical to Noise on the Stellar 'Yeo-Neun'

Cellist Okkyung Lee walks a fine line between classical and noise on the splendid, minimalist excursion Yeo-Neun.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.