Running with Scissors

  • Review Date: February 5, 2007
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2006
  • Running Time: 120 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Dysfunctional-family memoir wallows in smug humor.
  • Review Date: February 5, 2007
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2006
  • Running Time: 120 minutes





What parents need to know

Positive messages

Damaged, miserable adults raise damaged, frustrated, frightened (in one case, nearly homicidal) children; affair between a 35-year-old and a teenager; medication as a means to "cope" depression and manic behavior; mother's crazed behavior frightens her son; reverence/reading of bowel movements as a sign from God. The central teenage characters have no good role models to follow and no limits placed on their behavior -- they do whatever they want without consequences (like tear down the kitchen ceiling on a whim).


A woman slams her husband against a cupboard, and he falls to the floor, his head bloodied; discussions of suicide and electroshock therapy; an adopted adult son explodes in father's office, ripping and slamming furniture, then approaches his adoptive father with a knife.


Dr. Finch keeps a "Masturbatorium" in his office; sexual activity between a 14-year-old boy and his 35-year-old male lover (some skin visible, not explicit); mention of penis/flasher; language ("Don't touch my sausage," "I don't eat p---y").


Casual, frequent, and angry use of profanity, including "f--k" (20+); fewer instances of "s--t," "bitch," "c--t."


Mentions or brief glimpses of time period-defining products like Sanka, Tab, McDonalds; Dark Shadows on television.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Frequent cigarette smoking (by teens and adults); doctor dispenses pills randomly to "quiet the nerves" lots of drinking.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this film isn't for kids. It's based on the true story of author Augusten Burroughs' extremely dysfunctional childhood (his manic mother handed him over to her therapist) and runs the gamut of bizarre, often-crazy behavior. Characters smoke, drink, use drugs, receive very questionable psychiatric treatment, and discuss suicide (in one scene, a boy is outfitted with electroshock therapy gear, though he's not shocked). The film includes frequent arguments between family members, with yelling, crying, and occasional aggression (including a knife threat at one point). Sexual images include lesbians kissing and hugging and an affair between a teenage boy and a 35-year-old man (who ends up being his adoptive brother). Lots of profanity, especially "f--k."

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

Based on Augusten Burroughs' bestselling 2002 memoir, RUNNING WITH SCISSORS follows the tumultuous relationship between the precocious Augusten (played as a 6-year-old by Jack Kaeding, thereafter by Joseph Cross) and his mother. Delusional, erratic, aspiring poet Deirdre (Annette Bening) is unable to set "boundaries" for her bewildered son and is in constant opposition with her alcoholic husband Norman (Alec Baldwin). Eventually, Deirdre turns to Dr. Finch's prescribed therapy and medication. When Norman leaves for good, Augusten is almost relieved to see his father go, but he's devastated when Deirdre leaves him with the quirky Finch family. Weary Mrs. Finch (Jill Clayburgh) proves to be the most compassionate and durable member of his new "family, " which includes two differently damaged daughters: devoutly religious Hope (Gwyneth Paltrow) and rebellious Natalie (Evan Rachel Wood). The boy finds some solace in bed with his new "brother," the darkly manic, 35-year-old Neil (Joseph Fiennes), but their romance is hardly healthy.

Is it any good?


More absurd than insightful, Running with Scissors treats its dangerously self-deluded characters as broadly comic figures. Director Ryan Murphy's film grapples with mature themes -- including child sexual abuse, drug and alcohol addiction, and mental illness -- but loses its way thanks to its episodic structure and flat-footed humor.

Organized by assorted traumas, the film seems dated and smug (think The World According to Garp). With its outsized, wannabe Oscar-bait performances, the movie careens from scene to scene, dropping in Deirdre's lesbianism as yet more evidence of her delirious search for "herself." By the time Augusten makes his escape, you're way ahead of him.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Augsten's difficult relationship with his mother. How does he come to eventually understand her behavior? How does the movie show that he has to leave her to survive, even though the separation is painful for both of them? What about Augusten's relationship with Neil? Is it abusive, tender and loving, or both? Does Augusten (the "victim") truly understand the nature of their relationship? How does his perspective of Neil change over time? Why? How is the "therapy" that Deirdre and Augusten receive from Dr. Finch bogus, detrimental, and dangerous? If you were in Augusten's position, how do you think you would have coped?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:October 20, 2006
DVD release date:February 6, 2007
Cast:Annette Bening, Brian Cox, Joseph Cross
Director:Ryan Murphy
Studio:Columbia Tristar
Run time:120 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:for strong language and elements of sexuality, violence and substance abuse.

This review of Running with Scissors was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
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  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Adult Written byannamaeniac April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age

Deceptive Marketing

I rented this video because it looked funny. Reading the box it appeared to be a COMEDY about a dysfunctional family. The majority of the film my husband an watched had us swinging back and forth between shock and disbelief. It was never funny. After about 35 min we turned off the film and put in Oceans 11. There may be families that are truely this dysfunctional but I won't waste my time watching them. This film is highly inappropreate for children and young adults. AND I am including my 26 year old self in that category.
Teen, 14 years old Written bySafemancam001 July 2, 2012

Not quite as Good as the Book

My largest warnings to parents are that in this film there a many uses of "f***" and a few uses of "c**t", and there are depictions of teens smoking. The sexual content is mostly suggested but there is a scene where Augusten's mom is making-out with another woman. What you should first understand about this film is that it is based on a memoir by Augusten Burroughs. In his book he uses humor to write about his dysfunctional childhood, most likely, to get over it. There is emotional growth shown in some characters. I did find that the movie did seem to be lacking some important details stated in the book. Such as Augusten's brother, when his mother claimed to have been raped by Dr. Finch, or when Augusten and Natelie decide to go to community college. What the film did have going for it, however was Augusten's growth to realize that he wanted rules and it was hurting him that he didn't. Overall, the film was good and stayed fairly truthful to the book. I would have enjoyed a few extra scenes just to complete the story.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 13 years old Written byhaleylik March 12, 2009

love it

this is the greatest movie ever made funny stupid and dirty love it every 13-100 year old should see this movie


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