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Review: Running with Scissors

Published October 19, 2006 in Movie Reviews
By Fred Topel | Image property of TriStar Pictures.
Running with Scissors Running with Scissors
I was torn about Running with Scissors. On the one hand, I want to see what Ryan Murphy can accomplish on film. On the other hand, I don’t want to see some other hack take over nip/tuck, so it’s in my best interest to root for the film’s failure. Unfortunately, I couldn’t help liking it.

Running with Scissors Review


Augusten Burroughs (Joseph Cross) watches his parents (Annette Bening and Alec Baldwin) get divorced thanks to her “artistic” antics. She finds a therapist (Brian Cox) who approaches mental health in an equally eccentric way and becomes stuck in his crazy family’s games of enabling each others’ neuroses.

My only disappointment is that the film has to set itself up and wrap itself up in one episode. There are clearly many seasons worth of insanity to mine from this world. But films dealing with insanity face a touchy dilemma these days. Can you really condemn eccentric behavior in a world where everyone wants to coddle people’s uniqueness no matter how destructive it is?

Fortunately, Running with Scissors takes the politically incorrect approach. We need this movie. Crazy is real and we keep justifying it, especially in artists. There is a matter of social responsibility here. You can’t go around hurting others. When it damages children, someone has to be the grown-up.


Running with Scissors is based on a memoir, so obviously it is subject to the author’s perception. Add another level with a screenwriter’s adaptation and director’s vision. Still, it feels just grounded enough to have happened in reality, never crossing over into the surreal.

The little things are so weird you’ve just got to keep watching. It’s a matter of fact insanity where nobody questions why they think it’s okay to play with ECT machines or save their poop. This is the world of pretentious self importance where every basic decision in life has to be some dramatic gesture. Everything is life or death.

Annette Bening is amazing at finding levels in these depressed housewife characters. She is the perfect drama queen. Everything’s “creative this,” “creative that.” Her drugged stupor is believably slurred but clearly suppressing her natural energy.

The only slight inconsistency I saw is that Augusten seems to take after the crazy at first. He’s boiling and polishing his allowance but then when he gets older, he’s a normal kid. That could be dismissed as normal teenage rebellion against the parents, or just growing up.

Running with Scissors won’t be for everyone. Certainly you’d have to be in the shrinking minority that still believes in insanity, and then you’d have to want to see a whole movie about it. I wonder what that says about where I am in life.

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Fred Topel
Sources: Image property of TriStar Pictures.
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