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"Running with Scissors"

Directed by Ryan Murphy (the "Nip/Tuck" guy!).
Written by Ryan Murphy.  Based on the memoir by Augusten Burroughs.
Starring Joseph Cross, Annette Bening, Brian Cox and Alec Baldwin.
Release Year:  2006
Review Date:  10/28/06


I generally like movies that are a little off-kilter, but "Running with Scissors" is the kind of movie that seems to be weird for the sake of it.  Featuring a cast to die for and the creative mind behind "Nip/Tuck", Ryan Murphy, I was excited to see this movie but after watching it veer off in so many directions during my viewing this afternoon, I'm left with a film that was truly a grab bag of comedy, drama, and "other."

Joseph Cross stars as Augusten Burroughs, son of an initially neurotic (later, this changes to psychotic) poet named Deirdre (Annette Bening).  Augusten, about 13 years old when the plot of the film really gets moving, knows that he likes men and that he wants to be a hairdresser--scratch that, a "cosmetologist"--but beyond that, he doesn't have any idea where he is going to end up, as long as he can survive his adolescence.  See, his dad (Alec Baldwin) is an alcoholic, and when his parents separate, he's left with his mother, who promptly signs him over to the family's shrink, Dr. Finch (Brian Cox, who I'm hoping gets an Oscar nod over his work in this flick).  Dr. Finch--who calmly informs Deirdre during a session that the room off of his main office is where he normally jerks off, his "Masturbatorium"--has an even stranger set of circumstances, living in what might be Willy Wonka's vacation home in the suburbs, a strange contraption where he lives with his wife and two daughters Hope (Gwyneth Paltrow) and Natalie (Evan Rachel Wood, still waiting to play a normal character in a film).  Augusten hasn't gone to school in years, so his influence is now solely based on the Finch family and his new gay 35-year-old schizophrenic lover, Neil (Joseph Fiennes).  How will Augusten's life ever improve?

As you can tell, "Running with Scissors" preys on the ridiculous and embraces the insane throughout its running time.  Its comedy is so over the top that you don't even know what to do with it sometimes; all of the characters have strange sides to them, so it's only a question of when those oddities will collide.  So, bits like the Masturbatorium will get laughs; a scene of characters debating a piece of shit in the toilet and what it means about Jesus might not.  The idea that a 35-year-old guy is banging a boy 20 years his junior might be a little weird for some audience members, especially since here, it's played mainly for laughs.  The film just kind of lays it all out there, and sometimes it works, while in many other situations, it falls flat.

That leaves you, over the course of two hours, kind of on the fence about the whole affair; some folks walked out of my theater three-quarters of the way through, and others were heard murmuring things like "that was awful" as I was strolling out of the theater.  It kind of reminds you about anything that Charlie Kaufman ("Being John Malkovich", "Adaptation.") has touched...weird for the sake of it has a specific audience, and you just might not be it.  You have been warned!

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09