“Running with Scissors,” a comedy/drama directed by Ryan Murphy, is one novel-turned-movie that should have never made it to the big screen.
Augusten Burroughs, played by Joseph Cross, is the son of a psychologically disturbed mother who leaves him to be raised by her psychologist at the age of 14. Augusten tries to cope with his mother’s addiction to pills and his own homosexuality while living with the certifiable shrink Dr. Finch and his quirky family. He is now thrown into a world where stew is made from recently deceased pets, “the awful truth” comes with hamburger helper, bowl movements prove to be direct communication from God, and inner rage dominates most of the characters’ actions.
The film title would have made more sense if it was named “Running with Scissors and Falling on Them,” as this feeling is similar to what you feel while watching the movie. The storyline had potential to develop into a good film, but with the way the film was presented that possibility was destroyed. While the situations were funny at times, overall the intense and depressing subject matter overshadowed any form of humor in the film.
The film did provoke laughter, but not in the way the director intended. More often than not the laughter coming from the audience was directed at the ridiculous scenarios that were meant to be taken seriously. Many of the circumstances left you asking the questions: “What is going on and why is this happening?”
The film brings you down, but unlike most other films, never brings you back up again. The audience, along with Augusten, is never released from the anxiety resulting from the dilemmas he is constantly faced with again and again.
Rather than focusing on humorous situations from the fact that Augusten is living with this dysfunctional family, the movie focuses more on the destruction of Augusten’s childhood and the painful psychological demise of his mother. There was nothing feel- good about this movie; no relief from the dark circumstances the characters were going through. The eccentric way Dr. Finch and his family lived is only slightly amusing, and not enough to keep you interested throughout the movie. At no real point do you become emotionally attached to the characters or the situations they are going through. You sympathize with Augusten, but as for the rest of the characters, the unemotional attachment leads you to feel indifferent toward their outcome.
Unfortunately the amount of good acting in this film was not enough to save it. While Annette Benning’s performance as the mother is memorable, Gwyneth Paltrow’s brief performance as Dr. Finch’s daughter is probably the only partially enjoyable aspect of the movie.
If you decide to see this film based on the preview, you are destined to be disappointed to find out that the preview not only shows the few good parts of the film, but depicts what looks like an uplifting original romantic comedy. By the clips shown in the previews, you are even led to believe there will be a romantic interest between Augusten and Dr. Finch’s daughter Natalie, when in fact Augusten turns out to be gay.
The movie attempted to end on a hopeful note, but in no way was it enough to redeem itself from the gloominess looming over the entire film. If you like comical feel- good movies, this one isn’t for you. If you enjoy films, this one isn’t for you. If you like to leave a theater feeling worse than when you came, then I can say that I highly recommend this film.