Running With Scissors

Opens at Metro and other theaters, Fri., Oct. 27. Rated R. 116 minutes.

Adapted from Augusten Burroughs' wacky memoir of coming out as a gay teen in his adoptive guru's carnivalesque commune, this inevitable Oscar contender has been shaped by Nip/Tuck creator Ryan Murphy into an enjoyably overwrought ode to the kid's miraculous survival of everything from parental abandonment and pedophilia to bad '70s fashion. It works as further proof of a classic Me Decade maxim: That which doesn't kill you makes absolutely fabulous material—provided your mother doesn't use it first. As deadbeat mom Deirdre, a pill-popper who dumps Augusten in her shrink's hot-pink shack of a Victorian mansion, Annette Bening calculates the precise sound of each pharmacological slur right down to the milligram. But even more impressive is her ability to humanize a character that in other hands would look like a vicious satire of '70s New Age feminism. Burroughs, played from age 13 to 16 by wide-eyed newcomer Joseph Cross, serves as the straight man, so to speak, in a screwball farce where the inmates are running the asylum and the actors—Brian Cox, Gwyneth Paltrow, Alec Baldwin, Jill Clayburgh, Joseph Fiennes—are given free rein to ricochet off the walls. Still, like the book, Murphy's deadpan celebration of neurosis makes a valiant effort to repress its comedy—which, of course, makes it funnier. ROB NELSON

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