‘Scissors’ a car wreck of a movie

Emily Bearg

Ever seen a car wreck on the side of the road and couldn’t help but stare? “Running with Scissors” is this season’s “car wreck” movie, complete with crazy personalities, disastrous events and a new take on the dysfunctional family. The only difference is that “Running” leaves viewers hopeful and maybe a little happier about their comparably less chaotic and more average life.

After being raised by his talent-lacking, poetry-writing mother (Annette Bening) and alcohol-reliant and indifferent father (Alec Baldwin), Augusten Burroughs (Joseph Cross) runs into more trouble when his mother seeks help from a similarly fanatical psychiatrist, Dr. Finch (Brian Cox). When his parents divorce and Augusten thinks things can’t get worse, his mother drops him off at the Finch family home while she continues her Valium-aided “therapy.” But it’s not just any home sweet home: there’s the Christmas tree that’s been up for years, dog kibble for snacks and forecasts for the future found in the bathroom. Used to the non-conventional atmosphere, Augusten befriends Natalie Finch (Evan Rachel Wood), learns not to eat soup from Hope Finch (Gwyneth Paltrow) and finds out how much Mrs. Finch (Jill Clayburgh) has given up for her family.

Bening is impeccable as Augusten’s psychotic and self-centered mother yearning for stardom; in a totally contrasting role, Clayburgh also gives a winningly touching performance as Mrs. Finch. The rest of the cast, including Joseph Fiennes, Kristin Chenoweth and Gabrielle Union, seem crazy enough, yet surprisingly not too overdone to shine in their supporting roles.

Supporting the movie every step of the way is the seventies-inspired soundtrack that highlights scenes with hits like “Bennie and the Jets,” “Blinded by the Light” and “Year of the Cat,” which blasted when Augusten and Natalie impulsively gutted the kitchen ceiling as the other characters came to their own dark realizations. In a gripping scene, Augusten complains to Natalie about his past and dark future. “I know exactly how that is. To love somebody who doesn’t deserve it. Because they are all you have. Because any attention is better than no attention.”

The cinematography was equally as pleasing with such scenes as a flash into Mrs. Burrough’s unrealistic dream of reading her poems at Carnegie Hall, “…wearing a black dress against a black velvet curtain, so all they’ll focus on is my poetry.”

It’s pretty hard to believe most of the meat of the movie came from Augusten Burrough’s best-selling memoir, but quite frankly, viewers will either love it or hate it. While watching the more awkward scenes and contemplating the random arguments and tidbits of information, search for the dark humor and true-life lessons taught by a boy who can truly answer Dr. Finch’s question, “Where would we be without our painful childhoods?”