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Running With Scissors (2006)

DVD Cover (Sony Home Entertainment)
Genres:
Childhood Drama, Comedy Drama, Tragi-Comedy
Director:
Ryan Murphy Ryan Murphy
Starring:
Annette Bening Annette Bening
Brian Cox Brian Cox
Joseph Fiennes Joseph Fiennes
Evan Rachel Wood Evan Rachel Wood
Alec Baldwin Alec Baldwin

6.2 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by bluemeanie
Added: November 01, 2006
There was a moment in 1998 when a film affected me so profoundly that it changed my life in an actual sense. It was a film that went beyond the normal conventions of film-making and challenged my emotional and intellectual beliefs, in regards to film and drama. This film was "Rushmore". It was the last time I was impacted by a film in such a deep and positive way. After years and years of searching for that same high, I have finally found it. After years and years of plowing through endless piles of garbage and mediocrity, I have found what I was looking for - the first film I have seen since "Rushmore" that left me emotionally wrecked, and ready for more. That motion picture is "Running With Scissors", and it is being decimated by critics all over the country. It is being decimated because it doesn't follow the book as strictly as most would like. Surprise - this isn't the book version - it's the film version. There's a reason books are read and films are viewed - they are two totally different art forms, and the fact that one doesn't duplicate the other should not be seen as grounds for slander. "Running With Scissors" is not identical to the book. But, it has been lovingly adapted and features the best ensemble cast of the year, and the best performance of the year. This film is one of the best films I have ever see. It has made its way onto my top ten list of all-time. Why that might not sound like a big deal, it certainly is for me, and I am excited to write about it.

Based on the memoirs of Augusten Burroughs, "Running With Scissors" chronicles his life from birth through the tender age of fifteen, when he finally leaves for New York City. His parents include a pseudo-psychotic manic depressive with dreams of stardom (Annette Bening) and an alcoholic father with homicidal tendencies (Alec Baldwin). When they slip up at the bequest of the family shrink, Dr. Finch (Brian Cox), things really get interesting. Augusten (Joseph Cross) is sent to live with Dr. Finch and his family of the bizarre, including the youngest daughter Natalie (Evan Rachel Wood), the insane daughter Hope (Gwyneth Paltrow), and mother Agnes (Jill Clayburgh). In this family, every day is an adventure, from Hope slowly murdering her cat to Dr. Finch's breakdown when he discovers that his fecal matter is floating in a different direction. The film follows Augusten as he comes of age in very emotional and very troubled times, watching as his mother slowly slips away into a mental state where he cannot follow. The film follows Augusten as he slowly starts to realize that, in order to make it out alive, he is going to have to leave everything he knows behind. Joseph Fiennes co-stars as Bookman, Augusten's thirty-five-year-old lover who also happens to hear voices and plot murder. "Running With Scissors" is one heartbreak after another, disguised brilliantly with bursts of outrageous humor and sidesplitting laughter.

We should probably start with the fact that the film differs a great deal from the book. Something like that does not bother me. I think a film should differ from the book because they are both two very different forms of art, and a director might have a different vision for something that the writer might not have had. Now that I have seen the film, I will read the book and then make any judgments, but it will not depreciate the fact that the film affected me so deeply. The soundtrack follows the footsteps of Cameron Crowe or Wes Anderson and perfectly captures the mood of the film in each and every sequence - it was a delight for the auditory system. The set design is quirky and fun, very much like a Wes Anderson or a David O. Russell production - in fact, you can see the Wes Anderson influence over much of this motion picture. This is the major cinematic directorial debut for Ryan Murphy, who handles the material admirably, and really manages to bring out such heartbreak and such drama, and couple that with the humor and the heart of the absurdity of some of these situations. I found myself laughing for five minutes, then crying for five minutes, and then the cycle would repeat and repeat. You just don't know what to expect, and I found myself amazed at how this film was able to pull off both comedy and drama so flawlessly. Despite what the other critics might say of this film, it was a marvel - a cinematic achievement I will never forget.

And, one of the chief reasons for the success of the film was the performance of the soon to be Oscar nominated Annette Bening. Not only does she once again prove why she is one of the greatest living actresses, but also delivers one of the greatest female performances in the history of the motion picture industry. She came very close to topping Mary Tyler Moore from "Ordinary People" in my book - very close. She eats up each and every scene and she is kinetic and sad and insane and loving and every single emotion you can think of - she is all of that and more. As Augusten, Joseph Cross gives one hell of a strong performance and really has an amazing career ahead of him. He acts alongside these heavyweights like it's just another day at the office. Brian Cox delivers the best performance of his career as Dr. Finch, and it's almost as if the role were written expressly for him. In a small role as Augusten's father, Alec Baldwin underplays things and turns in the second most touching performance in the film, second only to the phenomenal Jill Clayburgh as Agnes Finch. If she does not receive an Oscar nomination, I will be crushed. I guess I should prepare for the letdown, because she is already being overlooked. She has some of the most touching and powerful scenes in the film, and I could not take my eyes off her. Gwyneth Paltrow was quite humorous in her supporting role, and Joseph Fiennes was intense, as always, as Bookman. This was a solid ensemble cast, led by the queen Annette Bening, who is giving Meryl a run for her money.

So, without further deliberation - I give you the best film of 2006. Period. It's that time of year when my number one film changes on a weekly, sometimes nightly, basis - but, it is going to take one hell of a wallop of a motion picture to top "Running With Scissors". This film just wowed me on a whole new level. It touched me, it enlightened me, it made me cry, it made me laugh, it broke my heart, it put it back together, and then it broke it again. It left me feeling relieved, but also left me feeling empty. It did everything a film can do to a person, and that is pretty incredible. This film deserves to be seen by anyone who appreciates emotion and drama and humor and heart. This film deserves to be seen by everyone who enjoys engrossing performances and engrossing story. "Running With Scissors" isn't just a film - it's an emotion. So, here are my recommendations and I will sing them loud into the hills: Annette Bening for Best Actress In A Leading Role, Joseph Cross for Best Actor In A Leading Role, Brian Cox for Best Actor In A Supporting Role, Jill Clayburgh for Best Actress In A Supporting Role, Ryan Murphy & Augusten Burroughs for Best Adapted Screenplay, Ryan Murphy for Best Director, and "Running With Scissors" for Best Picture. Don't count on but maybe two of those nominations - it deserves each and every one of them.

10/10.
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