Release Date: October 20th, 2006 by TriStar Pictures.
The Cast: Annette Bening, Joseph Cross, Gwyenth Paltrow, Jill Clayburgh, Brian Cox, Joseph Fiennes, Evan Rachel Wood, Alec Baldwin.
Directed by Ryan Murphy.
BASIC PREMISE: While his mother, Deirdre (Bening), recovers from her neurosis, Augusten (Cross), her teenage son, stays with her therapist, Dr.Finch (Cox).
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Running with Scissors entertains with its bizarre humor, wit, and its amazingly talented ensemble cast. The first scenes appropriately set up the close relationship between Augusten at the age of 7 (Jack Kaeding) and his mother, Deirdre, who reads a poem to him which she hopes will be published by the New Yorker. At age of 13, Augusten watches as his increasingly neurotic mother and alcoholic, workaholic father (Baldwin) split up. Meanwhile, Deirdre sees a therapist, Dr.Finch, who willingly decides to take care of Augusten for her while she recovers from her neurosis. Dr.Finch’s quirky, dysfunctional family makes the family in Little Miss Sunshine look like The Brady Bunch by comparison. His wife (Clayburgh) eats dog food on the couch, his rebellious younger daughter (Wood) plays “doctor” with Augusten, and his eldest daughter (Paltrow) claims that the family cat’s dying wish is to be turned into stew. Then there’s Dr.Finch himself who has his own “masturbatorium” and believes God communicates with him through the shape of his feces. The plot does seem a bit convoluted with so many crazy characters. At times, the film looses focus on Augusten and meanders from one bizarre situation to another. In a contrived subplot, he explores his homosexuality with Dr.Finch’s adopted son (Fiennes). Fortunately, the superb performances, especially by Annette Bening and Brian Cox, allow for some believable drama among all of the quirkiness. A witty screenplay by writer/director Ryan Murphy helps to make this bizarre, eccentric family seem oddly likeable and hilarious just like the film itself.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: It’s somewhat inspiring to watch Augusten come-of-age during his difficult upbringing as a teenager. Ultimately, he learns a lot about himself through his experiences with the odd Finch family. He doesn’t lose his mind like his mother does and, in moving scenes, he shows that he still loves her throughout her ordeal. As the clichéd yet truthful saying goes: what doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger.
INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: Occasionally contrived and unfocused.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 1
IN A NUTSHELL: Occasionally unfocused and contrived, but often hilarious and moving with terrific performances.
RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run)
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