Running With Scissors: Not a Trainwreck Film

Posted by Greg on Mar 4, 2011 in Movies |

Last week I watched the Ryan Murphy-directed film Running With Scissors, loosely based on the Augusten Burroughs memoir of the same name. Though it was critically panned and a box office bomb, there’s a certain charm and quirkiness at work in the film that’s quite charismatic. Veritable newcomer Joseph Cross as Augusten has a wide-eyed optimism and a teenage whimsy that’s easily relatable and even easier to root for.

Brian Cox as the oddball therapist that adopts Burroughs is certainly at his best, even if he is a bit over-the-top. Gwyneth Paltrow and Evan Rachel Wood as Cox’s daughters are decent, with the younger Wood overshadowing her elder. Paltrow, who goes opposite her usual role, certainly feels a bit forced. But whether that is the screenwriter’s fault or just Paltrow trying too hard is anyone’’s guess. Either way her placement in the film is a bit askance.

The true standout though is Annette Benning, who gives a near flawless performance as a delusional mother whose mental instability suffocates her marriage and limits her abilities as a mother. While Murphy often chases down the absurd, there are certainly enough scenes of value and merit to help Running With Scissors from collapsing on top of itself. Equal parts Hotel New Hampshire and The Royal Tennenbaums, it’s a winning film, if not an under-appreciated charmer.

Post-script: Murphy is now a media darling given the rampant success of Glee. But one has to wonder if Running With Scissors was released this month, would it still get ripped apart? Methinks it wouldn’t, but what do I know?

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