Review: Running with Scissors

Filed under: Reviews

There is one word that best describes this movie: whacked. If you had to describe it beyond that word, you would have to say that it has elements of Hotel New Hampshire, The World According to Garp, and practically anything directed by Wes Anderson. Except this time, there seems to be a hidden agenda to explore Freudian psychology with very odd characters and situations.

Adapted for the screen and directed by Nip/Tuck creator Ryan Murphy, Running with Scissors opens with the early childhood of one Augusten Burroughs and his insanely creative and emotionally unbalanced mother, Diedre (Annette Benning). His mother and father (Alec Baldwin) seem to be stuck in an abusive and ugly marriage that doesn't seem to phase Augusten because he seems to be so caught up in his love for his mother.

The unhappy couple seeks the advice of a psychologist named Dr. Finch (Brian Cox), who harbors some hidden secrets of his own. Eventually, Augusten's parents split up and Augusten goes to live with Dr. Finch while his mother repairs the disaster that is her life. Augusten's world implodes as he is forced to live in the unbalanced world that is the Finch family.

There is a lot more going on in this movie than one might give it credit for. The film's exploration of the human psyche through interpretations done by Freud, by using the members of the Finch household, is interesting. Then, by throwing in an innocent like Augusten into the mix does allow someone to see just how extreme each family member is. Dr. Finch has three children and each child represents a portion of Freud's interpretation of the psyche. First of all, you have the anal represented by Hope (Gwyneth Paltrow), who is a completely devoted to God and extremely repressed. Second, you have the oral represented by Natalie (Evan Rachel Wood), who is a rebellious teen whose dark secret allows her to be unbalanced at times. Lastly, you have the phallic represented by Bookman (Joseph Fiennes), a schizophrenic who was rejected by his father for being a homosexual. On top of all this, you have Augusten's mother, who is probably what one would consider a "manic depressive", and the Finches' mother, who is practically "catatonic" at times.

From a psychological viewpoint, this film can be fascinating, but it was probably better explored and analyzed in the book. The film itself is chaotic and unbalanced like the characters it holds. It is often hard to relate to or watch just because nothing is grounded in the film. The only factor that seems to be relatable is the film's humor. There is a lot to laugh at in this film, but often you find yourself wondering: am I laughing at the shock of it or the underlining issues represented?

I am not sure if I can say that any of the performances were any good given that they were all way over-the-top and never really moved me. I felt the same way after watching The Royal Tenenbaums, where all the performances were good, just the film didn't allow for any of them to stand out. You have Benning screaming, yelling, and being overly hysterical, but does that really constitute a great performance? I don't think so.

Running with Scissors is as unbalanced as the psychological theories it is trying to explore. I know that "whacked" isn't a psychological term, but it does perfectly describe this film about psychology. (2 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.

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