Although I'm an avid reader, I have to admit I've never read Augusten Burroughs' Running With Scissors, although I am aware of the controversy surrounding the book (in that the legal guardians of the main character weren't very happy with the way they were portrayed). Much like the hoo-ha surrounding James Frey's A Million Little Pieces, I take all the hoopla with a grain of salt. (Let's just say, if I were to ever write my own memoirs, there would be several unhappy people knocking on my door--let's face it, the truth hurts.)
That being said, what does bother me is when a movie that's clearly a drama pretends to be a comedy. I don't blame the movie, I blame the people who choose the clips for the previews, as well as those who write the text for the DVD box.
This happens all the time. For instance, The Upside Of Anger, which was such a great movie, but so not a comedy. Sometimes, in life, people say and do funny things. But funny things people say does not always equal comedy.
So, for those of you looking for a little light humor, this movie's not for you. It's dark. And twisted. And a bit disturbing. And that's just the way I like 'em. So, once I got past the fact that RWS isn't a ha-ha comedy, I settled into the drama of it.
The nostalgic soundtrack included songs such as "Blinded By The Light" by Manfred Mann's Earth Band, "The Things We Do For Love" by 10cc, "Bennie and the Jets" by Elton John, "Year of the Cat" by Al Stewart, and "Teach Your Children" by Crosby, Stills & Nash.
The main character, Augusten Burroughs, is portrayed by Joseph Cross, who has a list of credits to his name, but who I had never seen before. His depiction on Augusten brought a feeling of hope to what could have easily been a depressing film. His parents, Deirdre and Norman, are played by veterans Annette Bening and Alec Baldwin. Rounding out the cast are the Finch family, with Brian Cox as Dr. Finch, Jill Clayburgh as Agnes, Gwyneth Paltrow as Hope, and Evan Rachel Wood as Natalie. The supporting cast also includes Joseph Fiennes as Neil Bookman, and Kristin Chenoweth as Fern Stewart.
Be sure to stick it out through the credits, as no matter how dark the movie gets, the end brings everything to light. And in the end, as Dr. Finch says, "Where would we be without our painful childhood?" In Augusten's case, his memoirs wouldn't have produced a drama that left me with a smile on my face, humming "Teach Your Children" for days afterwards.
The film, presented in widescreen, featured crisp colors that helped bring the set, much of it the Finch's home, to life. The video captured all the glory of the 70s, which might make those who grew up during that era a little embarrassed, as the fashions were featured as prominently as the set was decorated.
I'm a huge soundtrack nut, so the fact that this one was chock full of goodies made the movie that much better. That, coupled with the fact that the music never drowned out dialogue, enabled me to hear every caustic quote.
Three "Featurettes" make up the extras. "Inside Outsiders" lets the actors explains their take on the characters they portray, as well as the feeling of working on the film. "A Personal Memoir by Augusten Burroughs" has the writer addressing his youth and the impetus for the book / film. This was probably the one featurette I was interested in, and I would have enjoyed this part more if it had left out the annoying background music, which, although it didn't drown out Burroughs, was loud enough to be distracting. "Creating the Cuckoo's Nest" allowed the production designer and set decorator to explain the creation of a place that, when all was said and done, the real Augusten himself said "felt like coming home again."
I'm sure those who have read the book will feel more strongly one way or the other about this film, but I think my not having any previous knowledge allowed me to enjoy it for the twisted little gem it is. This movie may not be a comedy, but it is a good movie!
Juliet Farmer, aka writnkitten