Set in the 70’s, Running with Scissors tells the story of Augusten Burrough’s (Joseph Cross) childhood. Augusten, a gay child, must cope with his erratic mother Deirdre (Annette Bening) who wants to be a famous poet and who suffers severe mood swings. His father Norman (Alec Baldwin) is of no help due to him being an alcoholic. Deirdre eventually gives Augusten to her psychiatrist Dr. Finch (Brian Cox). Augusten mikes in with Dr Finch and his peculiar family including submissive wife Agnes (Jill Clayburgh), religious daughter Hope (Gwyneth Paltrow), and the rebellious Natalie (Evan Rachel Wood)
Augusten finds it difficult adjusting to life with the doctor’s family. His increasingly erratic mother visits irregularly at weekends. Augusten confides in Natalie that he is gay and then becomes friends with Dr Finch’s adopted son Neil (Joseph Fiennes). The two men begin a sexual relationship but Augusten struggles with their age difference.
When Finch manipulates Deirdre into signing over her money to him and Deirdre finds a stable living companion in Dorothy (Gabrielle Union), Augusten feels that his mother no longer wants him, and also has to deal with Neil’s schizophrenia.
Eventually Augusten leaves to become a writer in New York. Agnes, who he has developed a close and caring relationship with, follows him to the bus station to give him some money she has saved.
“Ryan Murphy’s jaunty screen version of Running with Scissors proves that nothing consecrates one’s depiction of a narcissistic mother like having her embodied by Annette Bening. Bening’s specialties are (a) insane people and (b) actresses.”
— David Edelstein, New York Magazine (Vulture)
Did You Know?
Julianne Moore was originally earmarked to play Deirdre Burroughs. In one scene in which Augusten and Natalie Finch are sitting in the kitchen talking, there is a close up of Natalie smoking a cigarette. The brand is American Spirit, which was not available in the 70s.