If you didn't know better, you might find it hard to believe that the things that happen to young Augusten Burroughs in the film Running with Scissors actually happened -- and yet, they did. The film opens at a pivotal point in Augusten's life: His mother's decline into madness. When your mother is mentally unstable, your father is an emotionally walled-off alcoholic, and the two of them spend most of their time together embroiled in violent fights that end in threats of murder or suicide, it doesn't make for the most stable of childhoods. Augusten, who worships his mother and tries patiently to get the attention of his father, compensates by being a painfully neat child.
He obsesses over his hair being perfectly conditioned and styled, he dresses nattily in jackets and sweater vests, he decorates his mother's dog, Cream, with aluminum foil, and he boils his allowance and then polishes it with silver polish. When you're a kid whose adult support system is out of control, you take your stability where you can find it, and so Augusten carefully controls those things that are within his limited power.