Prayer Focus
Click here to watch THE HOPE on-line!
Movie Review

Running With Scissors

MPAA Rating: R for strong language and elements of sexuality, violence and substance abuse

Reviewed by: Misty Wagner

Very Offensive
Add to your list?
View your list
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Drama, Biography, Comedy
1 hr. 56 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
October 20, 2006 (limited—8 theaters), wider Oct. 27
Copyright, Sony Pictures Entertainment
Copyright, Sony Pictures Entertainment
Copyright, Sony Pictures Entertainment
Copyright, Sony Pictures Entertainment
Copyright, Sony Pictures Entertainment
Copyright, Sony Pictures Entertainment
Copyright, Sony Pictures Entertainment
Copyright, Sony Pictures Entertainment
Copyright, Sony Pictures Entertainment
Copyright, Sony Pictures Entertainment
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Sony Pictures Entertainment
Family Answers HOME page
Teen Qs™—Christian Answers for teenagers
Teens! Have questions? Find answers in our popular TeenQs section. Get answers to your questions about life, dating and much more.

What’s wrong with being gay? Answer
Homosexual behavior versus the Bible: Are people born gay? Does homosexuality harm anyone? Is it anyone’s business? Are homosexual and heterosexual relationships equally valid?

What about gays needs to change? Answer
It may not be what you think.

Struggling with homosexuality yourself? Read stories about those who have struggled and found wonderful change.

Sexually abused? Read personal accounts of others who have been abused

Does God feel our pain? Answer

Why does God allow innocent people to suffer? Answer

What about the issue of suffering? Doesn’t this prove that there is no God and that we are on our own? Answer

What kind of world would you create? Answer

Featuring: Annette Bening, Brian Cox, Joseph Fiennes, Evan Rachel Wood, Joseph Cross
Director: Ryan Murphy
Producer: Steve Samuels, Brad Grey, Ryan Murphy
Distributor: Sony Pictures Entertainment

“Based on the personal memoirs of Augusten Burroughs”

I read the book Running with Scissors about a year ago…. It had been on bestseller list long before I had decided to pick it up. Truthfully, one day I was reading a film-buzz press release which contained news about the film and cast, which caught my interest. Essentially, I read the memoir, for the movie. And now I see that it is impossible to review one without at least considering the other.

“Running with Scissors” is based on the memoir, of the same title, written by Augusten Burroughs. Augusten’s story is unlike any you have likely heard before. Because it seems quite the trendy thing, these days, there has been a lot of speculation that his story is enhanced and embellished. I think, sometimes, we get caught up in controversy, for controversy’s sake. It’s irrelevant really. This is his story, and as tragic as it tends to be, he tells it well.

Augusten begins the big screen version of his story, as a small boy. Through his child-eyes we see his parents, their marriage and how he dreams: Dreams of fame for his artistically poetic mother, and footsteps of his own, following right behind her. We speculate that his father (Alec Baldwin) may drink too much.… We realize that his mother (Annette Bening) seems incapable of thinking of anyone other than herself. As an audience we are drawn in by Augusten’s beckoning blue eyes, sympathizing with his family and charmed by his childlike optimism, despite obvious emotional neglect.

Time fast forwards several years, and suddenly Augusten is roughly fourteen. His parents have gone from disagreeing, while still tolerating one another, to full blown rage. His father’s alcoholism is confirmed, as is his mother’s narcissism. Things escalate to an apparently violent state and Augusten’s mother, Deirdre, seeks out the professional help of Dr. Finch (Brian Cox). The real story, in my opinion, begins here, as the Burroughs’s marriage crumbles, Deirdre seems to grow more and more mentally unstable, and Augusten is eventually forced to move in with Dr. Finch and his bizarre family.

There isn’t really a reason, or way, to further explain the plot. It’s random, and something that could only make sense if written out in an entire screenplay, or memoir.… Suffice it to say, “Running with Scissors” is not a film for everyone. If you read the book, and enjoyed it, than I recommend the movie. A few pointless characters are left out; several impertinent details are tamed down, altered or left out completely. Some things that were altered, like the dynamics of the relationship between Augusten and Neil, really change a large part of the story, but, other than that, I felt it was a great adaptation.

For those who aren’t familiar with the book, we learn about halfway through the film that Augusten is gay. As soon as Augusten’s best friend Natalie (Dr. Finch’s daughter, played by Evan Rachel Wood) learns this, she thinks to set him up with her adopted, schizophrenic 35 year old brother Neil. A relationship develops between Neil and Augusten, though most affection and intensity happens off camera. I felt that, considering the subject matter, their relationship was portrayed very tastefully.


  • In addition to Augusten being gay, his mother later decides that she is a lesbian. Neither of these story lines become the main focus of the story, but the audience is always aware that this is their reality.
  • The language is quite strong, but, even on this, I have to admit I was surprised. Considering the book again, I had expected it to be far worse.
  • The very nature of how Dr. Finch practices psychology is disturbing. At times, one can’t help but watch his character unfold and think “this man is genius,” but he isn’t. He is disturbing, and the very thought that this memoir is based on truth is nothing short of tragic. It’s both frightening and thought-provoking that anyone would allow a therapist this much control over their life.
  • Profanity aside, there is dialogue that takes place in a few scenes, which is crass and unnecessary.
  • There is a scene where Dr. Finch believes God has spoken to him by the way a bowel movement appeared in the toilet. It’s outlandish, but many Christians may be quite offended during this 5 minute episode.… Although God is quite thorough and involved in the details of our lives, the very idea that he would choose to speak to us in this manner is disgusting. Most would agree that only someone imbalanced would come to a conclusion like this, and maybe that was the point.… I think it’s okay to laugh, though; it’s a funny scene. Dr. Finch himself exclaims that God has a great sense of humor, and I happen to agree!
  • The Finch family seems to find much of their spiritual guidance from Bible dipping. (The act of randomly opening the Bible, asking a question and pointing to a word—that word being the answer…) Actually, the older Finch daughter Hope (Gwenyth Paltrow) even compares this to a magic 8 ball.
  • There very idea that no one objects to Augusten (14) being in a sexual/romantic relationship with a 35 year old is sickening. Later we learn of one of the Finch daughters also having a similar experience, and the results of that relationship were perverse and heartbreaking. There is nothing sweet about this idea. It’s abusive and illegal. It isn’t funny.… On a positive note, the film (and book, for that matter) in no way portrays this as a positive experience….

Truthfully, there are probably other things that aren’t coming right to my mind. This isn’t a movie for those easily offended. It isn’t heartwarming or sweet. It isn’t one of those wacky comedies where moments are funny, but often they are both sad and humorous. Most of the movie is intense.


  • There is no way that I can spotlight one actor and their role in this film. Every character is played by someone well known and incredibly talented. On the film’s trailer, they stated that they were introducing Joseph Cross (Augusten), but actually he has quite an extensive television history. The performances in this movie are among the strongest I have seen in film this year. The orchestration of this cast was incredibly well brought together, as well as carried out.
  • There is a scene between Agnes Finch (Jill Clayburgh) and Augusten, which is deeply moving. Actually, now that I think back, there is a beautiful level of chemistry between them in every scene they are in together. Between them, so much is unsaid and yet spoken. The one scene in particular though, while the two are alone at the dinner table, left me deeply touched. They have another powerful scene near the end. Actually, in a way, these two scenes make the movie for me….
  • At one point Augusten goes on a bit of a rant in his journal, about how he wishes his life were…—the guidance and structure he longs for. This realization is truly beautiful. Our society places so much emphasis on giving our kids freedom to make mistakes and choices. To a degree, this is a healthy way to enable them for adulthood, but whether they realize it or not, they do long for parents as well. This scene is worded perfectly and acted out even more perfectly….
  • “Running with Scissors” has one of those really great, nostalgia-inducing soundtracks. At times, a particular song would seem so out of place and distracting to a scene, only to wind up being just that…—a mellower, a distraction from a heaviness that was better relaxed a bit.
  • I can’t say it enough, subject matter and offenses aside, this movie was well done. The performances, the cinematography, direction, and editing. The wardrobe couldn’t have been more perfect, at times comical, yet sophisticated. Each scene is so aesthetically pleasing, warmly-hued, while still being visually vibrant.

There are deep and meaningful things to be found in Augusten’s story. When I closed the back cover of the memoir, a year ago, I knew it had altered me a little. Tonight, as I left the theatre, I felt that once again. Though most movies can’t hold a candle to the books which inspired them, there are aspects in this film which became much more powerful acted out rather than simply being read about.

Violence: Mild / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Minor

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive—…a truly disturbing experience, but it was also hilarious at the same time. Clearly, Augusten Burroughs had a horrific childhood! There were times when the film was hard to watch. Lots of the situations that the characters find themselves in are very shocking. This is NOT a film for the easily offended, nor is it a film for anyone under the age of 18. With all of that aside, the performances were excellent, especially that of Annette Bening. The woman deserves another Oscar nomination! I have only one complaint, and that would be that the film becomes wildly unfocused near the end, but then again, the filmmakers probably did that on purpose to portray how crazy Augusten’s life becomes. As I said earlier, there were many shocking scenes, but there were many extremely touching scenes as well, especially the scene with Joseph Cross and Jill Clayburgh near the end of the film. Overall, a really good film, however I can’t recommend it to everyone.
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive / 4
—Adam Renkovish, age 24
Comments from young people
Positive—I gave this film an offensive in the moral rating, but my opinion of the movie overall is positive. This movie should offend you when you watch it, if it didn’t you should be worried. But it’s that offensive quality that makes you appreciate the way the characters were able to break free and pursue their dreams. It’s a testimonial to the resiliency of the human soul. And there were many parts where God’s name was taken in vain but unlike in other movies where it’s used at unnecessary moments to make the lead characters look “cool” you could see where the characters were coming from. I pray to God that I’d still have faith in those situations but I honestly don’t know if I would. Even though I’m young I recognize this movie for what it is. Profound and deep. The relationships, such as Agnes and Augusten or Augusten and Natalie were strong, showing that even in such a tragic situation strong bonds can be formed between people. This movie was thought provoking, truly excellent.
My Ratings: Offensive / 5
—Kristina, age 16