A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What 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.
Talk to your kids 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?
- In theaters: October 20, 2006
- On DVD or streaming: February 6, 2007
- Cast: Annette Bening, Brian Cox, Joseph Cross
- Director: Ryan Murphy
- Studio: Columbia Tristar
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 120 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: for strong language and elements of sexuality, violence and substance abuse.