Our Rating: ★★★☆☆
L Factor: Major lesbian characters
Short Take: Based on Augusten Burroughs’ best selling memoir about his adolescence. His mother has two lesbian lovers.
Alternate Titles:
Year: 2006
Duration: 116 min
Language: USA/English
MPAA: R
Director: Ryan Murphy
Writer: Ryan Murphy, Augusten Burroughs
Starring: Annette Bening, Brian Cox, Joseph Fiennes, Evan Rachel Wood, Alec Baldwin, Joseph Cross, Jill Clayburgh, Gwyneth Paltrow, Gabrielle Union, Kristin Chenoweth

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Running with Scissors

A star studded cast packs this dramatic comedy based on Augusten Burroughs’ best selling memoir about his adolescence in the 1970s.

Augusten (Joseph Cross) lives with his troubled mother Deirdre (Annette Bening), who has delusions of becoming a poet with celebrity status, and his alcoholic father (Alec Baldwin). When his parents divorce, 13-year-old Augusten is given away by Deirdre to her psychiatrist Dr Finch (Brian Cox), with his family of misfits in a pigsty of a house.

Agnes Finch (Jill Clayburgh) snacks on dry dog food, but at least she shows some love to a boy who loses his mother to narcissism and eventual mental illness. Their daughter Natalie (Evan Rachel Wood) likes to play with the electric shock machine, but provides companionship, while older daughter Hope (Gwyneth Paltrow) hears voices and is a bit unhinged herself.

It’s a dark comedy, but Augusten’s life and that of his family and the people around him are so worrying that I found the film draining. Out as gay as a young teen, Augusten is introduced to sex by a 35 year old man (Joseph Fiennes, Shakespeare in Love), with Dr Finch’s approval.

Meanwhile, when he drops in on his mother unannounced, he finds her having sex with Fern (Kristin Chenoweth), a woman in her poetry group. When she takes up with Dorothy (Gabrielle Union), another of Dr Finch’s patients, mom’s new lover tries to push Augusten even further out of Deirdre’s life.

The performances are wonderful, but the train wreck of characters and their snippets of bizarreness were more disturbing than funny. (AB)