Susan Granger reviews “Running with Scissors”
Augusten Burroughs best-selling memoir of his unconventional family and traumatic struggle through adolescence must have been more credible than this film adaptation which is so bizarre that its almost surreal.
Narcissistic, neurotic poet Deirdre (Annette Bening) is continuously frustrated that the world doesnt recognize her genius, so she takes out her rage on her alcoholic husband Norman (Alec Baldwin). In an effort to restore harmony, the couple enters therapy with unconventional, pill-pushing Dr. Finch (Brian Cox), who demands daily five-hour sessions and often retreats to a private sanctuary known as The Masturbatorium. Fed up, stoic Norman splits, leaving Deidre with their teenage son Augusten, who is summarily abandoned on the Finch familys doorstep. Living in a rundown, rambling, bright-pink Victorian house (inspired by the drawings of Edward Gorey), the zany, idiosyncratic Finches are an eccentric crew.
Theres Dr. Finchs damaged wife Agnes (Jill Clayburgh), who nibbles dog kibble while watching old movies on a TV in a filthy parlor with a decorated Christmas tree, and her two daughters prim, Bible-obsessed Hope (Gwyneth Paltrow), who digs up her dead cat to make into stew, and rebellious, sexually precocious Natalie (Evan Rachel Wood) plus a gay adopted son Neil (Joseph Fiennes) who is undoubtedly insane.
Adapted and directed by Ryan Murphy (Nip/Tuck), its episodic and shallow, emphasizing the anecdotal absurdity which is astutely augmented by production designer Richard Sherman. Exuding vulnerability, tenaciously talented Annette Bening is oddly convincing, although her monstrous, pity-partying mother character isnt, while Brian Cox manages to make the unorthodox doctors droll dialogue vaguely amusing. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, Running With Scissors is a dysfunctional 5 with Joseph Cross and the real-life Augusten Burroughs sharing a poignant final moment together.