‘Running with Scissors’ Movie Review (2006)

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Running with Scissors Movie ReviewTerms like “wildly unfocused” are thrown around too often because while many films are unfocused very few do it in a wild manner. Running with Scissors is a different animal in that respect, the lack of focus is nutso and in fact… er… wild. It jumps from scene to scene and plot to plot in a completely schizophrenic manner. I know that was the goal of the film and the filmmaker, to make something zany, complicated, and crazy, but while they succeeded in doing that they didn’t make a very watchable film.

Running with Scissors is the movie adaptation of the popular memoirs of the same name by Augusten Burroughs. Augusten grew up in a hugely dysfunctional family with an insane mother and a distant dad. Having read and enjoyed the book I don’t envy the guy who tried to adapt it. It’s a messy story with very little firm thematic ground to stand on. The one thing the book does well is to stick with Augusten himself (perhaps because he wrote it) whereas the movie switches around and tries to build up other characters. I understand the motivation, more characters means casting a wider net, but the film would have been much better off focusing on the main character and what was happening to him (as opposed to around him). The amount of screen love his mom gets becomes a little silly and unsatisfying as the film rolls on.

On that note I want to try and debunk the latest Oscar buzz swirling around Annette Bening for her role as the momma here. She plays a crazy bitch, nothing more, nothing less, and the performance is nothing more than an amped up version of her role in American Beauty (which she didn’t win for). What would Oscar be saying with a nomination? Well, if you take it up to one more notch of loony we’ve got to take our hats off to you! I say no way on that noise, find a different role! What a nomination or victory here would mean is that we’re being treated to another “lifetime” recognition where the role doesn’t matter near as much as that people realize you’ve been around a while. Let’s all try to stop confusing longevity with Oscar caliber performances.

Thematically the film toils around with the idea of how creativity relates to selfishness and the role of a parent. Joseph Cross is really good as Augusten (how about a nom for him people) but we don’t get enough of him. The good in the film comes in the form of the occasional outlandish comment from Bening, Bryan Cox, or Alec Baldwin and the subject matter itself. It’s a good thing that this film got made overall, it was a gamble that failed but I respect the gamble overall. We need more gambling and less stupidity in the film world.

So don’t see it. Unless you are doing research on what growing up with an abusive parent would feel like it wouldn’t do you a lot of good. It does have the occasional laugh but overall that’s not enough to make up for the overall mess level presented here. Sorry Augusten, I guess my enjoyment of your books couldn’t carry me across this cinematic river.

GRADE: D

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Weekend: Nov. 15, 2018, Nov. 18, 2018

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