Running With Scissors

Rated NR

There are so many great ideas in this movie that it’s a shame that it succumbs to the worst of Hollywood sapumentary stylings. Unfortunately, Running With Scissors seems like it was directed by Cameron Crowe at his most Elizabethtown. On the plus side, there’s a great performance by Alec Baldwin as a reserved, 1950s-style father caught in a 1970s-style marriage to a drug-addled poet manqué (Annette Bening, who does her usual emoting). The plot is compellingly weird: Bening gives away her 16-year-old son, Augusten (Joseph Cross), to her deranged psychiatrist (Brian Cox) in order to spend more time with her narcissism. Sadly, while the odd moments work, they’re too often punctuated by swollen scenes of pat, pseudo-emotional intensity. A gorgeous performance by Joseph Fiennes is almost lost in the mood rock, and Evan Rachel Wood’s strong presence just doesn’t overcome director Ryan Murphy’s need for catharsis. Worst of all is the waste of Jill Clayburgh: She plays Augusten’s stepmother, a broken-souled eccentric who eats dog food and stares at the world with the fixity of a crazy cat lady on St. Swithun’s day. She’s supposed to be Augusten’s only true emotional connection, but because her character is never developed beyond caricature, it’s impossible to see why he would have a fondness for her. There’s still much to recommend in Running With Scissors, but its failures are a sad accusation of a filmmaking system that demands emotional manipulation.

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