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Running with Scissors

The Contenders

Release: Oct. 20

Distributor: Sony

Oscar Alum: Gwyneth Paltrow (actress, “Shakespeare in Love”)

Need crazy? Give Annette Bening a ring.

“Running With Scissors” is Bening’s latest work playing the mentally off-kilter. Here she’s Deirdre Burroughs, whacked-out mom of novelist Augusten Burroughs. She accuses her husband, played by Alec Baldwin, of trying to sabotage her so-called writing career, admonishes him for not wanting to spend five hours a day in counseling to work on their marriage, and, to top it off, abruptly decides to have her son live with his therapist (Brian Cox) and his strange family.

Bening is fresh off HBO’s “Mrs. Harris,” for which she was Emmy-nominated for playing an emotionally charged woman who offs her longtime lover. In “Being Julia,” she plays a bit of a diva. And there’s Oscar winner “American Beauty,” of course, where Bening embodied the amped-up real-estate agent who settled for nothing less than perfection.

Those less-than-stable characters only go to prove Bening’s widely recognized talents. She’s been Oscar-nominated three times — for “Julia,” “Beauty” and “The Grifters” — and “Scissors” may make No. 4.

The supporting cast is rich with actors who also have a history with the Academy. Among the standouts is veteran Jill Clayburgh, who worked with “Scissors” director Ryan Murphy on a few episodes of his TV series “Nip/Tuck” last season. She has been Oscar-nominated twice before — for best actress in 1979 for “An Unmarried Woman” and in 1980 for “Starting Over” — but, like Bening, has never taken home a trophy.

Joseph Fiennes, nearly unrecognizable with bushy ’70s chops, is another notable in his turn as Burroughs’ older lover.

The ensemble cast also includes Evan Rachel Wood, Patrick Wilson and Oscar winner Gwyneth Paltrow.

This is Murphy’s first studio feature as director and he also wrote the script. Given the pic hasn’t been wildly embraced by auds so far, with just a over $6.4 million, it’s still a question as to whether he’ll be recognized for helming or adapting Burroughs’ beloved bestseller.

Among the tech credits, production designer Richard Sherman assembled a colorful 1970s ambience. Some of the period touches may have been slightly too perfect, but his creation for Cox’s abode — a wildly cluttered mess, with tchotchkes strewn in nearly every crevice of the house — was quite a piece of work.

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