Running With Scissors

Based on a memoir by Augusten Burroughs, this first feature by writer-director Ryan Murphy clearly aims to outdo other comedy dramas about dysfunctional families through sheer hyperbole. The young hero (Joseph Cross) boasts an alcoholic father (Alec Baldwin) and an unglued mother (Annette Bening), who deposits him in the no less dysfunctional household of her therapist (a satirically funny Brian Cox). Maybe all this really happened, but I didn’t believe a second of it as portrayed. Bening (whose Oscar nomination for American Beauty seems to have turned her toward playing monsters) tries very hard, as do Joseph Fiennes, Evan Rachel Wood, Jill Clayburgh, and Gwyneth Paltrow. But Murphy seems either incapable of or uninterested in creating a recognizable world, so local comic effects count for everything. R, 121 min. (JR)

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