Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

This one will no doubt play well in the Soho, intellectual, patch on the elbow, therapy for no particular reason other than to lie on a couch and tell why you hated your mother crowd.  I, however, found it overly long, pointless, somewhat offensive and dull with a few humorous bits sprinkled throughout.

Augusten Burroughs is a real life famous author who had a very strange and unfortunate childhood.  His mother was a poet with grand delusions of grandeur, and his father was a violent alcoholic college professor.  Augustenís mother eventually started seeing a svengaliesque psychiatrist with a bizarre family, including a wife who eats dog food whom she essentially gave Augusten too.

This is ĎRunning with Scissorsí a ĎRoyal Tannembaumí type tragi-comedy in which a fourteen year old Augusten guides us, almost as an observer on his own life even as he is living it, through the absolute mess that was his childhood.

Diedre Burroughs (Annette Bening) is destined to be famous in her mind and allows her son to skip school to fix her hair and listen to her poems.  His Father Norman (Alec Baldwin) realizes that something is terribly wrong with his wife and child but has resigned himself to his horrible fate of a life and finds solace in gin.  Diedre is soon mentored by quack psychiatrist Dr. Finch (Bryan Cox) who has a side office he uses as a masturbatorium.  Masturbatorium.  Now thatís funny.  God also talks to him through his turds.  Anyway, Dr. Finch convinces Diedre to take numerous sedatives, leave her husband, shack in a hotel and give her son to his wacky family. 

The fun doesnít stop there though.  At fourteen, Augusten has declared himself gay so Dr. Finches daughter Natalie (Evan Rachel Wood) thinks it would be a good idea to for Augusten to meet her 35 year-old adopted brother Bookman (Joseph Fiennes who gives an bravura performance by the way) who is also gay, and disturbed and the two begin a sexual relationship.  Where I come from thatís called rape, but itís handled rather oddly here as a lovingly warped consensual thing.  Unfortunately, the law dictates you canít have consensual sex with a fourteen year old.  Even if youíre R. Kelly.

Talent in this film is obviously not a problem with Academy Award Winners Bening, and Gwenneth Paltrow, Emmy award winner Bryan Cox, Academy Award Nominees Baldwin, Fiennes, and Jill Clayburgh.  The problem is there is absolutely no joy in seeing all this talent exist with each other in this exercise in tedium.  Sure, itís funny watching Dr. Finch look in the toilet and decipher Godís meaning through a turd, or at least I found it funny, but none of the characters, including Augusten who is essentially being abused, are even remotely endearing.

I wouldnít say that first time writer / director Ryan Murphy squandered all of this talent, because the pace and setting of the film is fine.  Itís the subject matter that all of this skill is wasted on.  My childhood was way off the beaten path too, though it didnít include homosexual sex with a dude older than my dad, but I donít know if anybody would want to see it dramatized.  Then againÖ  Who am I to say what you should or not seeÖ  even though thatís exactly what Iím doing now.  Looks like I have a screenplay to write team.  Skip ĎRunning with Scissorsí and wait for the story of the teenage boy raised by a radical black panther and a patriotic green beret.  COMING SOON!!!

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