Took a break today from outlining my oral argument for court tomorrow to see the movie I think (I hope anyway) is going to take all the Oscars this year, “Running With Scissors.” It’s one of my favorite contemporary books and, as always, I was very dubious going into the theater. But, wow, did writer-director Ryan Murphy do justice to Burroughs’s book or what?! He did a bit of reworking so that the story would have more of an overall arc (and not so comprised of random bits of events), expounded on some characters and side-stories, and threw in some killer dialog, but overall it’s the same story as the book. And Augusten does a little cameo at the end during credits The film also evinces (my favorite lawyer word ) the power of amazing acting. Film ends up centering around the mother, played by Annette Bening, instead of main character Augusten, Jill Clayburgh creates much more depth, pathos and sympathy in a character in whom all that was lacking in the book, and, finally, OH MY GOD Joseph Fiennes completely blew me away with his portrayal of the schizophrenic statutory rapist who figures only in passing in the book. Took me practically the entire movie to figure out who it was behind that Village People-esque handlebar moustache, but once I remembered seeing his name in the write-up, I had to laugh to myself; I knew it took a powerhouse to create that kind of unforgettable character. He deserves every major award for that one. The one scene they left out that I wish they hadn’t was when teenage Augusten slips a paper bearing his phone number to the convenience store clerk only to turn around and see him laughing at it with two girls. You really felt sorry for him in the book when he was mocked for having unwittingly come on to a straight guy, and it imbued with a subtle poignancy Burroughs’s reflection that lacking a parent to instill in him a sense of reservation and teach him to think before acting had bitter consequences. The film totally Hollywoodized the sentiment by using it as a voice over during some of the more outrageous scenes.
I had a weirdly depressing weekend (feeling very anticlimactic now that my showcase is over, worried about being behind at work since I took off so much time to prepare for said showcase, sad that Luis will no longer be my teacher, and shell-shocked at learning from my high school reunion booklet that a classmate I’d known passed away sometime in the past ten years), and the movie had a similar effect on me as when I saw “Girl Interrupted.” It was the first time I’ve actually cried in the theater since I don’t know when, and when I got home, all I could do was sit in the dark with a glass of red wine and stare into space. It was comical, sadly pathetic, horrifying, deranged, and dramatically compelling all at the same time — like, in my opinion, all the best art is– and it just made me feel like I, like Deirdre Burroughs, like Susanna Kaysen, like Anne Sexton, like Sylvia Plath, am potentially so close to the edge. Like, it’s human to be so…and it’s only a matter of luck that prevents some from going over it.
In a not unsimilar vein, I’ve been to ABT three times in the past half week; here are two pics I took of David Hallberg at curtain call after his brilliant performance as Death in Kurt Jooss’s The Green Table.