Running with Scissors

In theory, Nip/Tuck creator Ryan Murphy seems like the ideal writer-director to bring Augusten Burroughs' 1970s-era memoir to the screen with all its delicious nuttiness and dark humor intact. But too much manic energy runs the movie off the rails. Annette Bening, having made a specialty of high-strung, neurotic women in Being Julia, American Beauty and HBO's Mrs. Harris, is dead-on casting as wanna-be poet Deirdre Burroughs, mommie dearest to young Augusten (Joseph Cross brings welcome restraint to the role). It's Deirdre who sends her only son to live with her shrink, Dr. Finch (Brian Cox), and his wack-job family, including wife Agnes (Jill Clayburgh) and their daughters, the cat-torturing Hope (a wasted Gwyneth Paltrow) and the sexpot Natalie (Evan Rachel Wood). Natalie's urges are of no use to the gay Augusten, who beds down with the much older Neil Bookman (Joseph Fiennes in the film's best performance), a powder-keg patient of Dr. Finch's. Burroughs made this comic house of horrors live and breathe on the page. Onscreen, despite actors who give their all, it lies there waiting for an animating force that never comes.

From The Archives Issue 312: March 6, 1980