Running With Scissors

MPAA Rating: R

Entertainment: +1

Content: -4

Cast: Annette Bening, Brian Cox, Joseph Fiennes, Evan Rachel Wood, Alec Baldwin, Jill Clayburgh, Joseph Cross. Written/directed by Ryan Murphy. Comedy/drama.

FILM SYNOPSIS: Taken from a poignant childhood memoir by Augusten Burroughs, the story takes place in the pill-popping 70s. Young Augusten (Joseph Cross) was living a middle-class existence with an alcoholic father and a bipolar mother. When his parents divorce, he is suddenly sent to live with his mothers unorthodox psychiatrist and his eccentric extended family.

PREVIEW REVIEW: This movie contains the funniest line Ive heard from a screenwriter in twenty years. Alas, it deals with a sexual bodily function, so I cant include it here. And thats the problem with this film. Its humor is dark, like pitch-black dark, and often generated from subject matter weve been trained since childhood not to verbalize in public.

Picture The Royal Tenenbaums marrying into The Addams Family, the result taking the form of a freaky bunch headed by one Dr. Finch (hysterically and at the same time frightenly played by the exceptional Brian Cox). These oddballs live in a world of their own; society holds no boundaries for the goofy doctor or his family, which mostly consist of adopted children of patients. Whats more, the doctor is a quack, one who dupes manic patients out of their money and into outrageous circumstances, such as letting him have their children. Were never quite certain just how deranged this psycho psychiatrist really is, but Cox plays him with an unnerving slyness that suggests lunacy.

Though their humor is often derived from bright wryness, the family isnt a light-hearted bunch, as is the unconventional family from You Cant Take It With You. Along with the vulgar humor the film is equal parts drama, and is peopled by a seriously troubled group unable to cope with life. Now, while we can learn lessons from screen characters adjusting to real-life dilemmas, the often gruesome humor attached to the bleak subject matter makes for a cartoonish other-world that few viewers will take seriously. Whats more, you never feel theres love in the soul of any of these characters. They seem to hang together because they dont know what else to do. Even if you relate to a fractured family life, I cant see this film offering any positive solutions. Here the humor is mined from sadness (drug abuse, same-sex relations, and the portrait of a groups warped response to societys social mores).

Allow me to give you one example of the comic proceedings. About to be evicted by the IRS, the worried Dr. Nutcase runs through the house one night, waking the other inhabitants, promising he has seen a miracle. He then leads them to his bathroom, where he shows the startled group what he feels is a Heaven-sent answer to their problems. In his stool he sees hope. The extended scene is shot from inside the toilet bowl up at the mixed reactions of the incredulous group. This brought verbal uneasiness from audience members concerned with just how picturesque this visual was going to become.

If that doesnt sound like your cup of tea, you probably wont enjoy seeing a man having sex with a teenage boy, either. You may also object to the portrait of a angst-ridden teenage girl with a mouth that would make Howard Stern blush. Oh, then we see a sexual dalliance between the leads mother and her neighbor lady. The actress playing the part of the lesbian neighbor is played by Kristin Chenoweth, recently seen in Robin Williams RV. In real life, Ms. Chenoweth professes to be a Christian. It surprises me that the actress would take such a role, as neither her part nor the film offer significant hope or biblical truth. Then again, it never ceases to amaze me what parts Christians in Hollywood will justify playing.

Now many, perhaps most of my readers, would pass on this or any film with an R-rating. But I reviewed this film due to the cast. Its an excellent cast and they seem to revel in the fleshing out of Augusten Burroughs personal diary.

Allow me to suggest a video alternative. You Cant Take It With You, Frank Capras charming award-winner about an eccentric but loving family. Warning: there are a couple of problems with this Frank Capra comedy. Its old (1938) and its in black and white. What a shame. Its funny, touching and reverent (the family is seen being led in prayers of thanks by the family patriarch). But who wants to watch an old B&W movie, even if it is an Oscar-winning film starring Jimmy Stewart and Lionel Barrymore, masterfully directed by a Hollywood legion, a film that will make you feel happy?

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: Mostly, the crudity is derived from sexual activity or discussion.

Obscene Language: Around 40 obscenities, mostly the f- & s-words, but also a few coarse references to the female anatomy. Some of this objectionable dialogue comes from teenage characters.

Profanity: Nine profane uses of Gods name or Christs.

Violence: One unbalanced relative runs amuck and threatens to kill Dr. Finch with a pair of scissors. A woman, believing her cat speaks to her, keeps the animal captive in a small clothes hamper until it dies. We see the corpse this is played for laughs ha, ha, ha.

Sex: Mostly implied, but sex outside marriage happens frequently among this group.

Nudity: None

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: LOTS. For example, two sisters never say a civil word to one another. In anger the younger one refers to her sister with a derogatory word refering to a private body part (once again; ha, ha, ha).

Drugs: Drinking & smoking throughout. And prescription drugs relax a patient, but also make her oblivious.

Other: None

Running Time: 116 minutes
Intended Audience: I give up. Who wants to watch this stuff?

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