Characters To Run From
The movie adaptation of Augusten Burroughs's memoir of the same title, Running with Scissors, is indeed the harrowing trip down memory lane that it promises to be, but perhaps not in the kindest way.
Under the care of his emotionally volatile mother Deirdre (Annette Bening), Augusten (Joseph Cross) is later left to live with their loony psychiatrist Dr. Finch (Brian Cox) and his wacky household; meanwhile, under the influence of Finch and his pills, Dierdre degenerates into a sad shell of a woman.
Yet sympathy runs on short supply here, as the characters overload viewers with their psychoses. It's rather amusing for about the first 20 to 30 minutes, but gets old soon enough as the film assaults you with an in-your-face hysteria. In the end, what is it for? The movie adopts a rather smug tone about its characters, as if we're meant to either chuckle or recoil in horror at them. It's reflected in director Ryan Murphy's admittedly creative shots, color-coordinated and full of '70s kitsch (but unfortunately scored to the point of oppressiveness with banal period pop hits) -- yes, it's a frightening fantasy of memory, but it's all so cute and done up that we have no choice but to concede that we're watching characters who are less real flesh and more collages of eccentricities.
Performances are what usually give such characters humanity and weight, yet though all the actors are game here, none of them can escape the caricatural corners to where they've been forced. Bening will deserve whatever praise she gets for bringing patches of sympathy to her unsympathetic character, but that's about as much as I'll say about it; I've admitted before that I don't care much for portrayals of hysterical women because I find them demeaning.
All of these people are depicted as figures to escape from, and this is obvious from the beginning, yet we wait all movie long for Augusten, portrayed as sensible throughout, to finally do the obvious thing. In depicting a nightmare from which someone emerging intact is cause for amazement, the movie does its job; but I'm not comfortable with how flippantly the film leaves its bodies behind in the process.
(Released by Sony Pictures Entertainment and rated "R" for strong language and elements of sexuality, violence and substance abuse.)
Review also posted at ww.windowtothemovies.com.