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Steven Sees Running With Scissors, the Movie

While The League lacked lacked the intestinal fortitude and stamina to go see Running With Scissors, Lauren and I were brave enough to catch a showing at Barton Creek Mall.

This is not to imply The League is not brave and sturdy, for he is certainly not lacking in the areas of stability or bravery, to the contrary, the arc of the life of the young Augusten Burroughs is very, very depressing. It’s so bad that the phrase “You can’t make something like this up” applies many, many times over.

A Junior high boy dating a 30+ year-old man? A 13 year old being prescribed god-knows-what pills out of a medicine cabinet like they were trick or treats? A boy of this age being encouraged to overdose so as to establish a psychiatric case to drop out of junior high. It’s rough stuff. I suppose that at this abysmal level of tragedy, it’s only fitting that the other cliche kick in: “You have to laugh.”

Nevertheless the actors did a great job bringing Augusten’s very, very warped life to the screen. The characters perfectly embodied the space that I imagined them. I always imagined Hope as a sort of Emily Dickinson + Sylvia Plath combination and she was perfectly played by Gwyneth Paltrow. I always imagined Natalie as vulnerable and a bit too sexy for her own good, again perfectly executed by Evan Rachel Wood ( who will continue to become a great actress, I think ).

The real performance that everyone wants to see is Annette Bening’s return to “psychotic, middle-aged wife” territory that she does ever-so-well. In American Beauty she showed The American Working Woman collapsing under all her own expectations of success. Who can forget her cleaning that dingy house in her slip and, after failing to make the sale, slapping her sobbing face while giving herself such negative reinforcement as: “Shut up you big baby”? I was wondering if she would simply re-play that role, but with a more heavily narcissistic slant. She did, but added a breathy New England artist angle to it that really captured the essence of the Dierdre Burroughs portrayed in the book.

In addition, she also adds in, for good measure, some cuckoo’s nest completely looney trips to her own private mental place beyond the moonbeams and rainbows. One tends to think that people go “off the deep end” in a violent explosion. Bening’s portrayal shows that the rational world can go ‘pop’ like a soap bubble and there’s no coming back from that place.

I don’t think I’d rush to the theatres to catch it, but it’s probably worth a rental.

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