I don't know how I could have missed this when it first came out. Augusten Burroughs is my favorite memoirist and I've read all his books and praise them all. So, when I heard that Running with Scissors was being made into a film I was thrilled. I think, though, when I saw that it was marketed as a comedy AND the reviews were just mediocre, I decided not to see it. Big mistake.
This is an amazing story. And, the cast was incredible-- the acting absolutely superb. I am just shocked at the poor reviews here. Not one thing was wrong with this movie. Really. Not one thing.
Jill Clayburgh and Annette Benning should have received an Academy for their part in this. Brian Cox was fantastic. And Joseph Cross, as Augusten was absolutely perfect. I can't praise Cross enough and I don't think too many people would have been able to pull this character off. Knowing Burroughs from his books, you see he has a caustic yet self-deprecating wit. But, to actually SEE him as the child he was-- maintaining his innocence while being exposed to horrendous circumstances he was exposed to actually made me appreciate Burroughs even more than I already do. Alec Baldwin, as always, played his brief part perfectly-- with empathy and depth.
Burroughs grew up in one of the most dysfunctional homes you will ever read about. After his parents divorced, he lived with his mentally ill and completely narcissistic mother until she handed Augusten over to her just-as-mentally-ill psychiatrist to raise him. The environment in this psychiatrist's home has to be seen (or read about) to be believed. Poor Augusten lived there for several years while his mother attempted to "find herself" and nurture herself at her son's expense. She even had the psychiatrist adopt her son.
Ironically, although it is difficult not to blame Burroughs' mother in all this- she's the epitome of narcissism-- the truth is, the MD is really the one to be reviled. Had his mother been treated by almost any other mental health professional rather than this one, it is likely everyone in Augusten's family would have been better off. Instead of treating his patients, the doctor did everything to mistreat them. I would like to believe that he was just insane, too, with no evil intent. But the truth is, I'm not so sure.
Somehow, despite his childhood, Augusten Burroughs became an adult to be admired. He went through incredibly difficult times, even after he left the psychiatrist's home. But, he persevered and his character was not permanently damaged. When reading his other books, it's clear that he analyzes all his behaviors and feelings and strives to be the best person he can possibly be.
This film is NOT a comedy. It has comedic elements, but it is a travesty that it was marketed as a comedy. One of the things that makes Burroughs' books so good is his dry (almost gallows) humor. But, his life isn't really a comedy. It's a tragedy that, thankfully, has a happy ending. Yes, I laughed at some parts, but it's laughter at the horror of what he lives through and the insanity of his environment. This movie is one of the most gut-wrenching films I've seen and should have been marketed entirely differently.
I really hope that the bad reviews here won't deter you from either purchasing or renting this film. I can't praise it highly enough.