Combustible Celluloid
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With: Annette Bening, Brian Cox, Joseph Fiennes, Evan Rachel Wood, Alec Baldwin, Joseph Cross, Jill Clayburgh, Gwyneth Paltrow, Gabrielle Union, Patrick Wilson, Kristin Chenoweth
Written by: Ryan Murphy, based on the book by Augusten Burroughs
Directed by: Ryan Murphy
MPAA Rating: R for strong language and elements of sexuality, violence and substance abuse
Running Time: 120
Date: 10/20/2006

Running with Scissors (2006)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Dull 'Scissors'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Augusten Burroughs is a naturally gifted, very funny writer (without any formal training) and his memoir Running with Scissors, makes the most of a screwed-up childhood. But writer/director Ryan Murphy (a veteran of the TV shows "Popular" and "Nip/Tuck") makes every conceivable mistake in bringing the book to the big screen. His first offense is that he forgets to be funny: the film's first half hour contains a few laughs, but they dry up well before the film slogs toward its 120-minute mark. In creating the Burroughs character, Murphy makes him a passive observer; everything happens to him and he never takes any action. (Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous has the same problem.) The likable actor Joseph Cross tries his best to overcome this, but it's a nothing role. Also, the director allows the story's tragedy to reach hysterical proportions, pitched wildly over-the-top and way past any reasonable balancing point. Poor Annette Bening, cast as Augusten's self-absorbed, drug-addled, writer mother, might have added another brilliant performance to her resume, but Murphy loses control of her and lets her run rampant. The story, more or less, concerns Augusten's fate when his mother becomes mixed up with a quack therapist (Brian Cox). Augusten loses touch with his drunken father (Alec Baldwin) and is moved into the therapist's house with his daughters (Gwyneth Paltrow and Evan Rachel Wood), his wife (Jill Clayburgh) and another patient (Joseph Fiennes), with whom Augusten strikes up a romance. Most of these other actors can't find a consistent tone either, though Wood conjures up some nifty little moments. The movie's only real saving grace is Clayburgh's surprisingly nuanced, layered performance as the doctor's defeated wife. To date, she has two Oscar nominations -- for An Unmarried Woman (1978) and Starting Over (1979) -- and I'd like to see her nab a third. Running with Scissors{subid}&url=hitlist.asp?searchfield=marvel
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