Friday, October 06, 2006
MovieWatch:"Running With Scissors"
"Running With Scissors"
Director: Ryan Murphy
Fien Print Rating (Out of 100): 50
In a Nutshell: I was not spectacularly enamored with (by?) Augusten Burroughs' memoir "Running with Scissors," which frequently felt disingenuously self-indulgent to me, but if the book has a great virtue, it's Burroughs' refusal to let the absurdist tragedy of his life ever effect the comic rhythm of his prose. Even when it's miserable, it zips along with an undeniable energy. It's unfortunately, then, that in writer-director Ryan Murphy's hands, a book that felt like it could be read in two hours has become a movie that feels like it takes 10 hours to watch. Despite TV credits -- the underrated "Popular" and the overrated "Nip/Tuck" -- that suggest a gift with mixing melodrama and pitch black comedy, Murphy only occasionally captures Burroughs' tone and never for a second does he get Burroughs pace. Murphy's problem comes out of the book, which is long on eccentric anecdotes and short on traditional emotional arc, and out of an inability to build a separate cinematic momentum. Too many scenes devolve into two characters sitting next to each other or across from each other delivered in static shot-reverse-shots that seem to go on forever. While certain images are well-realized from the book, the Murphy is never confident with camera placement, which drains impact from a number of shots. And Murphy is smart enough that he feels every lag, but inexperienced enough to believe that a cliched piece of campy classic rock can smooth things over. Whole stretches of the movie play out over one song after another, with the lyrics often over-articulating what's happening on screen. For all of his aesthetic problems, Murphy gets a slew of excellent performances, with Brian Cox and the underused Alec Baldwin standing out and Joseph Cross, as Burroughs, doing decent work as well. As in the book, the women are more arch and Annette Benning's performance will be polarizing, I'd imagine. If she hadn't done similarly affected work to Oscar-nominated effect in "American Beauty" and "Being Julia," I'd have been more impressed. This was a book that had to be adapted by a Bennett Miller or a Noah Baumbach or even a Wes Anderson. Actually, it had to be adapted by Hal Ashby or Billy Wilder, but neither was, um, available.