Spanking The Monkey
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A critically acclaimed, outrageously offbeat look at growing up! Looking forward to a prestigious summer internship in Washington, D.C., pre-med college student Raymond (Saving Private Ryan's Jeremy Davies) has his dreams put on hold when he's forced to stay at home caring for his invalid mother (Alberta Watson, The Sweet Hereafter, TV's 24). Constantly harassed by his domineering, traveling salesman father, Raymond struggles to deal with his mother's bed-ridden anxieties and his first, stumbling attempts to romance the naive girl next door.
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Top customer reviews
The simplest way to describe this movie would be, a descent into The Dysfunctional Family From Hell, or mostly, The Dysfunctional Parents From Hell And Their Unfortunate Son. The film covers a relatively short span of maybe a week one summer when a college freshman finds himself unexpectedly trapped at home looking after his bedridden mother. It is a deeply absurd and Kafkaesque world which provides plenty of black black comedy.
Two things really stand out in this movie: 1. It is never predictable, which kept my attention riveted to the screen, and 2. It always looks and feels "real." That is to say, it never resorts to the usual hooks and cop-outs that most movies rely on: using a more attractive/telegenic cast, prettifying what little nudity and sex there is, having a satisfying/redeeming/uplifting ending wherein the main character "solves" a problem or "learns" a lesson at film's end, etc. The sheer level of interpersonal dysfunction is downright surreal, yet Russell captures it all with a chillingly journalistic approach.
Many of the scenes are not easy to watch, but due to their emotional and visual realism it is equally hard NOT to watch them. Yes there is some mother-son incest but it's not really graphic, the stark emotional violence is what truly disturbs. Overall a very original and courageous movie...certainly not multiplex fodder!
It boggles my mind that anyone could see this movie as a comedy; even a "dark comedy" at that; much less an "entertaining" one. I'm stunned that anyone would praise writer-director David O. Russell as a "comic genius." The characters are much too deeply, disturbingly dysfunctional for their situations to be considered even remotely funny. The only funny moment occurs when the unraveling protagonist Raymond (Jeremy Davies) tells his aunt to "do me a favor and shut your big fat mouth for once!" The only one who deserves praise in this pathetic mess of a movie is Jeremy Davies who, in an especially brave performance, at least, manages to make you totally understand Raymond's frustrations and angst. Davies' achievement is even more remarkable considering that Russell's script is nothing but a bunch of dysfunctional muck.
Raymond is forced to give up his summer internship at medical school and, instead, care for his temporarily disabled mother (Alberta Watson). His summer quickly turns into a living nightmare. Raymond is an instantly sympathetic protagonist; possibly because everyone else around him is so horrible. His domineering dad (Benjamin Hendrickson) is a traveling salseman who engages in extra-marital affairs on the road. His mother is lonely, but also selfish and manipulative. Raymond makes fumbling attempts to connect with a neighborhood girl (Carla Gallo), and his other "friends" are all drunk or stoned losers. Raymond is filled with overwhelming sexual tensions and frustrations. The neighbor girl thinks Raymond is gay, and his friends doubt he gets any sex. This leads to incest, fueled by vodka, painkillers, and tons of hatred and hypocrisy, between Raymond and his mother. Raymond even hisses "I hate you" at his mother just prior to a violent mother-son "encounter."
This is definitely not a "coming of age" comedy. Instead, it definitely is a coming of rage tragedy. And who can blame Raymond when his rage erupts? There are more scenes of suicide attempts and domestic assaults. Immediately after attempting suicide, Raymond kisses his mother passionately and then practically strangles her to death. Is anybody really laughing? No. You just hope Raymond will escape his toxic environment. Trouble is, any audience member with a brain will want to escape the movie long before Raymond does. "Controversial content" does not make this movie provocative or even, for that matter, especially interesting. Russell, however, does reveal himself as a cold, cruel, self-indulgent and manipulative film-maker.
Most recent customer reviews
Though Spanking the Monkey gets points for daring and can boast a sweet and winning performance by Carla Gallo, the movie's whole is not equal to the...Read more
Raymond is forced to stay at home for the summer
Wanting an internship...Read more
Spanking the Monkey is a movie that wants to be deep.Read more