Running with Scissors

Movie review by
Cynthia Fuchs, Common Sense Media
Running with Scissors Movie Poster Image
Dysfunctional-family memoir wallows in smug humor.
  • R
  • 2006
  • 120 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 7 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

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.

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."

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byFrikka April 9, 2008
Adult Written bymercymercygray April 9, 2008

deceived by the promos

could not decide if movie was meant to be funny, dramatic or a satire. it was slow moving and the story line was actually painful to watch. some small moments... Continue reading
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... Continue reading
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

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?

Movie details

  • 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.
  • Last updated: September 21, 2019

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