“RUNNING WITH SCISSORS”–a twisted childhood

“Running With Scissors”

A Twisted Childhood

Amos Lassen

“Running With Scissors” has been a greatly anticipated movie due to the success of the book and it doesn’t disappoint. It is a fairly sick and twisted story of a young boy who is caught up in the mental abuse, drug use and mental illness in his family. Because it is a true story, it is sometimes not easy to watch but it is the story of survival against really challenging odds. I found that the movie had shades of Charles Dickens in it in that it is the story of a young man being orphaned by his living parents and the underlying psychological darkness of the youth’s adventures. The book by Augusten Burroughs (who gained instant fame because of it) was written in 2002 deals with the homosexuality of the boy and his mother as well as the sexual relationship between the boy and an older man and these aspects are much larger in the film than in the book.

We take a walk through Burrough’s adolescence and watch him discover himself—the discoveries he makes are based upon the estrangement of his parents who grew disillusioned with each other. This journey is one of experiences remembered and not experiences that actually came to be.

Annette Bening plays Dierdre, Augusten’s mother, and does so in an amazingly tender portrayal. It is rumored early that his is an Oscar caliber performance yet t was forgotten come nomination time. Yet the movie belongs to her and she is brilliant—no make-up, just a wonderful job of acting.

What colors the film is a child’s memories of a period left behind and just recently looked back upon. A world is recreated that seems distant yet painful. The adults in this world are the ghosts of ambitions never realized and all that is left of them is their poisonous eccentricity. Because of this the movie seems to go over the top in terms of realism. This is what makes the movie so funny as psychological manipulation is adroitly displayed.

Other great performances are turned in by Alec Baldwin and Jill Clayburgh but Joseph Cross as Augusten Burroughs acts like he is walking through and then fades into the background. For those who read the book, the movie is an unsatisfying adaptation. The film loses itself when it can’t decide if it is a drama or a comedy. But Burroughs had the same problem in deciding what his life was.

This could have been a great movie but instead it comes in as only a good one. The family that young Augusten is sent to live with—the crazy Finch family is a roller coaster ride of emotions. A lot of the laughter comes as a result feeling the sadness of the situation. Waxing nostalgic about one’s youth can be great fun but none when it is presented tastelessly.  The gay sense were dry and bland and I think that the opinion we get of Augusten Burroughs is that his childhood was a sick experience that has him laughing all the way to the bank.

Many of the reviews that I have read completely discredit the movie and several call “Running With Scissors” the worst movie ever made. Guys—ease up. A great movie it is not but it is a good one. It is so far fetched that it seems as if it cannot possibly be true. I love the way Burroughs writes and the movie pays the same attention to detail as do his books. I like the movie—in fact; I liked it a great deal so I guess I am at odds with many of the critics. You make the decision.


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