Just as romance movies fall under the tried and tested romantic-comedy or romantic-tragedy genres, if a movie is made about a family, you can be sure that it must be dysfunctional. And in Running with Scissors, one such family is insufficient, and you have the protagonist, Augusten Burroughs (Joseph Cross), jump off the frying pan and into the fire, where he encounters even more weirdness in his surrogate family.
Based on personal memoirs of the real Augusten Burroughs (of course, with a certain degree of dramatic license), Running with Scissors appeals through its quirky ensemble cast. Starting with Augusten's own parents - an alcoholic father (Alec Baldwin), and his mother whom he is extremely close with, Deirdre Burroughs, played excellently by Annette Benning, who is suffering from severe delusions that she's a great poet awaiting her potential to be unleashed to the world. As she slowly becomes unstable, Augusten is packed off to live with her own therapist Dr Finch (Brian Cox).
And it is here that the kaleidoscope of bizarre episodes start to take place in Augusten's life, no less contributed by the weird Finch family. Hope, the eldest daughter (Gwyneth Paltrow) is a God-fearing woman filled with blind faith, Mrs Finch (Jill Clayburgh) is unkempt and eats doggie snacks, while the youngest daughter, Natalie (Evan Rachel Wood), is your typical teen rebel without a cause. Performances by the cast for the Finch family were great fun, especially Gwyneth's tongue-in-cheek take as a spinster. But the scene stealer was naturally Evan Rachel Wood, though I think she's about to get typecast if she continues in similar roles, which we have already seen in Thirteen and Pretty Persuasion.
But amongst all, Annette Benning has put up a credible performance as the delusional mother, and is almost au naturel with her subtle mood swings and the constant guessing if she's actually intelligibly aware of what she's saying and doing. Joseph Cross too plays off her energy rather well, as the main protagonist, he has the responsibility to make the audience sympathize with his predicament, and he succeeded.
Which is his total loss at how to deal with his family problems, of being the child stuck between two warring parents. Having a love hate relationship with the ones who brought you to this world, and nurtured you, is difficult. And to feel abandoned by your loved one when they pack you off to stay with another family just takes the cake. In the madness that he lived in, perhaps his soulmate is Natalie, who also seems to be the only sane person around the house, barring her uncouth mouth. In her, he can see himself as she experiences similar issues, and a time will come when they will both make important decisions that will change their lives.
Filled with an eclectic and excellent soundtrack selection, Running with Scissors has great dialogue filled with enough innuendoes and situations to tickle your funny bone, and its finale is surprisingly heartwarming. Recommended stuff.