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July 19th, 2006:
At the age of 12, Augusten Burroughs (Joseph Cross
) has to witness the pinnacle of his parents’ deteriorating relationship. His alcoholic father (Alec Baldwin
) has distanced himself entirely from the family, while his bipolar mother (Annette Bening
) is slipping further into insanity. She keeps herself occupied with her poetry and self-centered delusions of grandeur, but at least she recognizes her own instability. On a regular basis, she visits her unorthodox psychiatrist, Dr. Finch (Brian Cox
), who finally recommends that she should take a short break from her son. She agrees with her doctor’s suggestion to turn Augusten over to him so that she may recover from her exhaustion in the meantime. One would assume that living with a psychiatrist would help Augusten gain some stability in his life, but his awkward childhood cannot even compare to what he will go through during his teenage years. Dr. Finch’s enormous house is filled with bizarre characters, with the majority actually representing the doctor’s out-of-control family members. Thanks to a friendly pedophile (Joseph Fiennes
), who resides in the backyard shed, Augusten is able to better assess his own sexuality. It isn’t long before the boy realizes that his mother is not looking to take him back anytime soon.What to Expect:
The film is an adaptation of a New York Times Bestselling memoir under the same title written by Augusten X. Burroughs. The author’s first novel, which is based on his actual life experiences, has been described as darkly comedic, positively harrowing, and ultimately inspiring. Burroughs certainly does not shy away from revealing the most peculiar or embarrassing details from his confounding childhood. He discusses his alcoholism, his experimentations with prescription drugs, as well as his early homosexual encounters with Neil Bookman, the 33-year old pedophile, who forced the boy to give him oral sex. According to the book, Burroughs’ eventual two-year open love affair with Bookman was never protested by either his mother or Dr. Finch. It is without a doubt a relationship that could go on to cause quite a bit of controversy when depicted on film. Article continues below
Some of the problems Burroughs has faced since publishing his novel actually resemble the recent scandal involving James Frey’s memoir A Million Little Pieces. The melodrama surrounding Frey’s book has been nearly impossible to miss since it has been covered on numerous high profile talk shows over the past several months. The author’s memoir has been debunked as somewhat fictional and has caused uproar among readers who felt cheated after purchasing what they presumed to be non-fiction. Although that could hardly be considered the first time a writer has stretched the truth for the benefit of the story, Frey has since had to face rather frivolous class-action lawsuits. Similarly, in 2005, the Turcotte family, the people that had raised him, slapped Burroughs with a suit. Since his account was a rather scathing one, the family sued for defamation of character and invasion of privacy, claiming that the author completely sensationalized the events, hurting their reputation in the process. Meanwhile, amid all these controversies, Burroughs’ publishing company has tacked on a disclaimer to Possible Side Effects, his latest book.
To play this unlikely assortment of strange characters, the filmmakers have been very lucky in assembling a phenomenal cast. Alec Baldwin and Annette Bening are precisely the type of high profile actors that can make a welcome transition into small independent cinema. Bening will have a real chance to shine as the unstable mother, who even dabbles in lesbianism. Brian Cox (Match Point, Red Eye, The Ringer) just seems to be everywhere lately and there really is no genre or character role that he cannot do. Joseph Fiennes (Shakespeare in Love, Luther, Enemy at the Gates) has made an audacious decision to play the pedophile, a type of role that could easily taint the remainder of his career. Gwyneth Paltrow
has her first film role in a couple of years and it’s a small one as one of Dr. Finch’s wacky residents. Evan Rachel Wood
(S1m0ne, Thirteen, The Missing) has a pivotal role as Natalie, another one of Dr. Finch’s young troubled souls, who, together with Augusten, seeks a way out of the madhouse. Finally, Gabrielle Union
(Bring It On, Two Can Play That Game, Bad Boys II) has an interesting supporting role as a manic depressive junkie that also becomes Annette Bening’s lover in the film.
This is easily one of the most dysfunctional stories of the year. Without a doubt, this type of quirky material lends itself perfectly to a rousing film adaptation. If you consider the cult status of titles like Igby Goes Down, The Royal Tenenbaums, and The Squid and the Whale, Running with Scissors is bound to win similar types of audiences over. In fact, the story sounds even more implausible than the ones in any of those films, despite being based on actual events. Similarly to the upcoming Little Miss Sunshine
, the film will probably have you shaking your head in horror while simultaneously laughing at the outrageousness of the situations. However, it appears that the tone in Running with Scissors may be a bit more serious or even dreadful. Ryan Murphy
, the creator of the clever FX show “Nip/Tuck,” may just be the right type of person to handle this sort of perverse material. The film will mark his feature film directorial debut.In Conclusion:
The eccentric dramedy story elements, the shocking content, and the recent “memoir” scandals are all likely to garner the film some attention. I doubt Running with Scissors can crossover to become a feel good hit the way Little Miss Sunshine probably will, but it is not as pessimistic as it may seem. At the core, this is a coming-of-age story and a remarkable tale of a young male triumphing over the most bizarre, confusing, and potentially damaging adversities to make a life for himself in the end. As a genre-blending film, it could go on to become a genuine hit in the independent circles.Similar Titles: The Royal Tenenbaums
, Igby Goes Down
, The Squid and the Whale
, American Beauty