Wal-Mart: the High Cost of Low Price (PG)

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The Independent Culture

Augusten Burroughs' memoirs of dysfunctional adolescence in late-1970s America give the directors and cast some meaty opportunities for over-the-top acting and whacked-out gags, and they make the most of them. Particularly honourable mention goes to Brian Cox, as the Svengali-like psychiatrist who adopts Burroughs, and who keeps a "masturbatorium" next to his office for occasional relief; to Annette Bening as Burroughs' mother, reading out her dreadful poetry and fantasising about being the new Anne Sexton; and to Jill Clayburgh, as Cox's wife, struggling to find some kindness and purpose in a wrecked and crazy life. The difficulties with this film are the difficulties with the memoir as genre; the lack of narrative shape, so that it runs out of steam; and the fact that it's too self-centred - you never feel that any of the characters except Burroughs is allowed any real dignity or empathy.

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