Running with Scissors (2006) Directed by Ryan Murphy
Running With Scissors is an adaptation of Augusten Burroughs famed autobiography mainly dealing with his separation from his parents, especially his abandonment by his unstable mother Deirdre (Annette Bening). Deirdre has Augusten adopted by her therapist Dr Finch (Brian Cox) and he becomes part of Finch's family of unconventional outcasts.
Everything about this film is a nod to Wes Anderson and especially The Royal Tenenbaums. The 70's soundtrack (excellent), the 70's decor (great sets) the eccentric family which has Gwyneth Paltrow as a member. The Brian Cox character is even a bit like Bill Murray. Director Murphy has decided to try on someone else's shoes (Anderson's) to tell Burroughs story.
This is one of those films saved by great acting and a decent script.
The reason to watch this is Annette Bening who keeps showing us what an amazing actress she is. Her Deirdre Burroughs abandons her son in pursuit of artistic exploits, becomes addicted to Dr Finch's medication, realizes she's lesbian and in the end, is in turn abandoned by her son Augusten. Bening makes all this believable. She's well supported by Brian Cox, Jill Clayburgh and an excellent Evan Rachel Wood. Joseph Cross who plays the 14 year old Burroughs is good but looks too old and a little too much like Tom Hanks. Creepy. Its also worth noting it has the only use of Al Stewart's Year Of The Cat in a Hollywood film that I've ever seen.
I enjoyed this film. Watching Running With Scissors felt like rummaging through second hand furniture and sometimes that distinct familiarity is OK.
Mother who is mentally unstable and refers to Anne Sexton (the poet) in her life and poetry class. Yes, I must like it! I am a sucker for these kinds of family depictions – especially when we learn that Augusten really is a person and he really survived his horrible and unconventional childhood. There is something way too dramatic and unreal about this story, and yet I know that this is exactly how disfunctional families often are. For real.
But let me discuss the mother of Augusten more because she was fascinating from a few perspectives: Deirdre is played by Annette Bening, the excellent actress (although Hollywood doesn't think she is beautiful enough apparently). Since the 1990's she is also the wife of Warren Beatty (I get to mention him again). Ok, I hate/love writing that last sentence, but I was reading the worst book ever (you only need to read the name to know what it's like: The Sexiest Man Alive: A Biography of Warren Beatty by Ellis Amburn) and in this book Annette Bening has her own chapter ('yes, yes Annette'). The book represents her as the ugly, cold, career-driven 30-year-old divorcee, who corners the famous womanizer Warren by getting pregnant on their first encounter. Thank you for that excellent analysis Ellis! I could not erase the echos of your empty deduction from my head while watching Bening as the failed artist and mother in Running With Scissors. In a peculiar way the character of the movie and her mental instability melted into the questions of what did Annette (the actress) really give up when she married Warren and had four children with him when she was at the prime of her movie making years in Hollywood? Has she had it all (great roles= good career, love=Warren and the kids and the multiple homes and holidays) or did she have to choose and compromise? Ok, I am seriously curious about this one. But who knows the answer?
Back to the movie: Deirdre is married to a man who drinks too much and remains detached emotionally. They finally divorce when their son is 12 and Deirdre's shrink gets to rule over her and her son's world to the point where he adopts Augusten and takes all of D's money without her realizing. So she is again abused by a man (the shrink) but as she is freed from the oppression of her marriage (and because she really is mad, I think) she doesn't realize the extend of things. She is completely selfish in her choices – gets rid of her son, becomes a lesbian, does drugs (legal and illegal), writes her (crappy) poetry and believes to be on her way to unraveling her true creativity (and being published in the New Yorker). She becomes a kind of monster from the perspective of the son. Yet, I feel the movie and Augusten (the writer of the book that this film is based on) remain somewhat sympathetic towards her. There is a strange love in the film's portrayal of everyone, all its faulty broken characters. Almost as if no judgment needs to be passed despite everything.