27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
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.
26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
...they'll seem like the poster children for mental and emotional health, after watching this film!
Augusten Burroughs (Joseph Cross) grows up in a household with his mother, Deirdre (Annette Benning), who has severe mental stability issues. I am no psychiatrist so I am not even going to try to label her. He also has an alcoholic father, Norman (Alec Baldwin), who seems to have little to no interest in his son. In fact, because of his absence, I thought at the beginning of the film Augusten's parents were already divorced.
Deirdre is more dependant on her son than he is on her, he seems to care for her, and she seems to lean on him. She is an aspiring poet who lets her son skip school to do her hair and plan parties. The mother and father fight right in front of Augusten without a thought to him or his feelings. After a rather explosive fight they seek marital counseling and that's our introduction to the colorful Dr. Finch (Brian Cox). Through a series of events Augusten ends up living with the Finch's and we are wrapped up in another household filled with the emotionally and mentally unstable.
Despite his surroundings, you watch Augusten grow up to be relatively 'normal'. In his need for stability and normalcy, he finds the unlikely hero in the form of the long suffering housewife of Dr.Finch, Agnes (Jill Clayburgh). She really touched me in the way she cared for Augusten.
With all the craziness that occurs in this film, it should be a lot darker than it is. Surprisingly this movie makes humor out of situations that should horrify. I laughed more than I cried; I giggled more than I gasped. In real life, none of the situations portrayed would be amusing, I don't think I could have watched the film without the humor; it would have been too depressing. The acting in this movie, by everyone, was absolutely excellent, real and flawless. The movie reminded me a bit of The Royal Tenenbaums, the crazy, surreal family.
This was a good movie and I really enjoyed it, but it did make me think people should have to pass a series of tests in order to procreate and raise children, yikes!
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
This was a plesent surprise to pick up and watch the film adaptation of this book based on the memiors of Augusten Burrough, who at the age of 15 was signed away by his mother into the guardianship of her psychiatrist. This movie does an excellent job of portraying mental illness (bipolar and schizophrenia) and what actually occurs in the minds and daily lives of those who struggle with it. As for the Dr. Fitch, he is the exception to regular psychiatry, with loose boundaries and inappropriate relations with patients ended actually helping one of them. To those with mental illness, what appears to be real or "normal" to them can appear unbelievable to us. For Agusten, he grew up with no rules or boundaries, and it is amazing to see what will and insight can do. This is a great depiction of someone who overcame tremendous barriers to become something great. Thank him for sharing it with us. Rent this buy this read this, worth the time
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Definitely one of the most dark psychological comedies to come along in years, RUNNING WITH SCISSORS has an excellent cast telling a truly warped story. What makes this even more interesting is that it's semi-autobiographical. Based on the life of Augusten Burroughs and his dysfunctional surroundings, young actor Joseph Cross does an excellent job in portraying what it must've been like to grow up an adolescent amidst the chaos of mental illness, yet come out the other end as a functioning adult.
Annette Bening stars as Deidre Burroughs, Augusten's unstable mother, and does so brilliantly. Her mood swings and mental breakdowns are frightening, tear-jerky, and funny all at the same time. When she sets up Augusten to be adopted by her psychiatrist, the audience feels both a sense of relief and a terrible foreboding. Brian Cox stars as the manipulative yet strangely lovable psychoanalyst, Dr. Finch. His family is a mish-mash of his own kids and those he's adopted and taken advantage of financially. His wife Agnes, played superbly by Jill Clayburgh, is one of the shining lights in the film, giving us a much needed resting post to lean against while trying to grasp the amazing flaws of everyone else (she has her shortcomings, too, but they aren't as broad).
The story pulls no punches either, showing how Augusten's early development lead him toward homosexuality, Dr. Finch discussing his masturbatorium (figure it out), Deidre exploring lesbianism after a nasty divorce from her husband (played very well by Alec Baldwin), and the discovery of bowel movements as prognosticators.
The only downside to the entire movie was that it feels unbalanced, sometimes accelerating through scenes in mere seconds before grabbing traction again and moving fluidly forward.
One could also see the screenplay being a complete disaster if it weren't for the all-star, powerhouse cast. Brian Cox, Annette Bening, Alec Baldwin, Gwyneth Paltrow, Evan Rachel Woods, Joseph Fiennes, and many, many others lend their ample talents to the film. But the ending certainly makes up for any lagging script qualities. To learn that Augusten survived this raucous period in his life and came out the other end still a productive member of society is something to marvel at. And you probably will...
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Based on the memoirs of Augusten Burroughs, "Running with Scissors" was a film that I didn't know much about and wasn't truly interested in seeing in the first place. I had caught glimpses of it here and there, but never actually took the time to sit down and watch it. Well, curiousity got the better of me. After all, any film that stars Annette Bening ("American Beauty"), Brian Cox ("Manhunter,"Zodiac"), Gwyneth Paltrow ("Se7en"), Joseph Fiennes ("Shakespeare in Love," "Enemy at the Gates"), and Alec Baldwin ("The Departed) can't be that bad. Well, folks, it can be.
The film revolves around the life of Augusten Burroughs in the 70's. As a child, he's raised by his bipolar, poet mother, Deirdre (Annette Bening) and his hard-working father (Alec Baldwin). Towards the beginning of his teenage years, Augusten (Joseph Cross) copes with his parents divorcing and then taking care of his mother, who knows she'll make it big in the poetry business someday. Deirdre begins to see a psychiatrist, Dr. Finch (Brian Cox), to help her with her problems. Eventually, it comes to the conclusion that she needs Augusten out of her life if she ever wants to succeed with her dreams. The solution is to hand him over to live with Dr. Finch and his family, who consist of the loving, but quirky matriarch Agnes (Jill Clayburgh), the hot-headed Natalie (Evan Rachel Wood), the spiritual Hope (Gwyneth Paltrow), and the gay, adopted son, Neil (Joseph Fiennes), who Augusten begins to have feelings for. As years pass, Augusten begins to move past supporting his own mom and learns to start having to deal with his new family.
I've never walked out of a movie in my entire life. Even if I hate what's happening on the screen and can't stand it anymore, I still stay, hoping for some good to happen. "Running with Scissors" is a film that I almost stopped, mainly because of how much I disliked it. It's about as interesting as watching paint dry while the only sound you can hear are people yelling and cursing obscenities at each other. If I had stopped watching this film, not only would I have not missed out on anything great, but I would have been better off.
The film tries to be too quirky, but then tries to be too dramatic as well. There's no balance whatsoever. There is humor in the film, but it's quite dark. For instance, a character feels that her cat is going to die. She feels that she can speak to the cat and that the cat wants to die quickly. So what does she do? She puts a laundry basket over it so it can't move and it eventually dies from lack of water and food and the filmmakers play it off as a joke. Hilarious...no, sick and twisted. I didn't laugh once in the film, well, at least, not in the right spot (more on this later). Even though the Finch family is weird, there was no real reason to laugh at the situations they got themselves into because there was no purpose for them being weird. They're just weird. The dramatic aspect of the film didn't fare any better. I didn't understand any character choices whatsoever and no relationships were developed well enough to make me care about them. Again, the Finch family didn't feel like a family unit, but just a group of individuals living under the same roof. The film tried to be a drama with comedic bits, but it failed in that regard.
Before I begin this part of the review, I want to say that the acting is fairly good in the film and not terrible by any means. The main problem with the entire film is the characters, who are so poorly written, that it's criminal. Annette Bening's character was the worst of the bunch, which is unfortunate, because she's a great actress in the first place ("American Beauty" rules). If there's ever been a person I've wanted to slap in a film, it would be her character. Everytime she appeared on screen, I wanted to skip past it. The character is one-dimensional throughout the entire film. She's either angry, depressed, or drugged and that's it. I had no idea why Augusten still wanted to be with her, which made me care less about the story. Natalie, the chain-smoking, foul-mouthed daughter of Dr. Finch, also suffers from bad writing. She's annoying and complains about wanting to go to college, but talks about how she doesn't have money and other reasons hinder her. If we wanted to fall in love with her character, give her some drive and determination. Anyone can complain and moan about their situation. Big deal. Get over it and move on (this would be a good tagline for the film). Then, she tries to make the audience pity her in one scene and all I could do was laugh. And that laugh was the only one that came from me while I watched the entire film. I could go on and on about how much I loathed most (if not all) of the characters, but I don't want to waste that much more time on the film.
Another issue I had with the film was the profanity. Now, I can handle large portions of bad language only if it serves the story and the situations that the characters have to deal with, but in "Running with Scissors" it just felt so overdone and unnecessary. It became mind-numbing and tedious after awhile that I wished I could just gag all of the actors' mouths. I don't know if the filmmakers were aiming for humor at those points, but they just came off as being dirty and not needed at all.
The only reason I actually continued watching the film was Jill Clayburgh, the actress who played Agnes. As the mother of the household, she tries to keep everything together and everyone happy. Agnes is the most sympathetic character of the bunch and when she would get sad or angry, I felt that emotion due to the great acting by Clayburgh. In a film filled with unlikeable characters, I truly loved Clayburgh's performance and felt that it belonged in a better film. The final scene of the film with her and Joseph Cross was the best part of the film (not saying much), because of the character and the actress who portrayed her.
Overall, "Running with Scissors" is not a good nor enjoyable film at all. It's not a comedy nor a drama either. The characters are terribly written and unlikeable and the story as a whole doesn't work well either. The only person that comes out of the rubble unscathed is Jill Clayburgh, who turns in a fine performance. Besides that, there's nothing great to write home about. I really wish I had just turned it off in the first place.