Running with Scissors Ryan Murphy

Running with Scissors is based on writer Augusten Burroughs’s memoir of his deranged adolescence in the home of his mother’s charismatic psychiatrist, Dr. Finch. When his parents split up, 13-year old Augusten (Joseph Cross) is sent to live with the Finches, who eventually adopt him. The Finch household is way beyond eccentric, its members all damaged in some way, from the dutiful but totally mad Hope (Gwyneth Paltrow in a fabulous, if small, part) to the rejected, schizophrenic Neil (Joseph Fiennes), who becomes Augusten’s lover. Younger daughter Natalie (Evan Rachel Wood) becomes a friend and mother Agnes (Jill Clayburgh) a surprising ally. Annette Bening as Augusten’s narcissistic, deluded mother and Alec Baldwin as his father provide the best performances in a film of standout performances and a lukewarm script. In the "truth is stranger than fiction” tradition, the world Burroughs describes is like a darker, sadder, weirder version of the eccentric families we love to see fictionalised, from J.D. Salinger’s oh-so-quirky Glasses to the Tanenbaums. But is it even the truth? Burroughs has come under attack by the Turcotte family (the real life Finches) for playing fast and loose with their story, and interestingly, the film is not "based on a true story” but "based on the memoirs of...” I’m sure there are plenty of legal reasons this ambiguity can’t be discussed on the DVD but it is a frustrating gap in the extras. There is a good featurette on "the making of,” a worthwhile one on the rich production design and an interview with Burroughs that would be great if it you didn’t want to yell at the screen, "yeah, yeah, but is it all a big lie?” For that, best to check out the January ’07 Vanity Fair. Sadly there is no commentary at all, and for once I actually wanted to know more. (Sony)