Spanking the Monkey (1994) - Rotten Tomatoes

Spanking the Monkey (1994)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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David O. Russell burst onto the scene with this challenging and controversial film about an introverted college student and the incestuous disaster of a summer that follows his freshman year. Ray Aibelli (Jeremy Davies) returns home for what is supposed to be a short visit with his family prior to leaving for Washington D.C., where he will intern in the surgeon general's office. Ray's plans are quickly scuttled by his acerbic and controlling father (Benjamin Hendrickson), a salesman leaving on an extended business trip, who strong-arms Ray into caring for his depressed mother (Alberta Watson) while she recovers from torn ligaments in her leg. Gently prodding his mother to begin using crutches so he will no longer have to change her bedpans and carry her about the house, and so he can still arrive belatedly for the internship, Ray discovers that his mother is not only physically but emotionally dependent on his presence. She begins making inappropriately tender displays of her affection for him, which only become more complicated when he has to rub lotion underneath her cast to soothe her itches. As that relationship grows increasingly fuzzy, Ray must also deal with the sputtering advances of a neighborhood high school girl (Carla Gallo) and the overly aggressive chiding of his estranged group of friends. Russell both scripted and directed this critically acclaimed debut, which courted controversy by following the mother-son relationship into uncomfortably frank and off-limits territory.more
Rating: Unrated
Genre: Drama, Comedy
Directed By:
Written By: David O. Russell
In Theaters:
On DVD: Dec 6, 2005
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment


Jeremy Davies
as Raymond Aibelli
Alberta Watson
as Susan Aibelli
Liberty Jean
as 1st Motel Woman
as Curtis
Archer Martin
as 2nd Motel Woman
Neil Connie Wallace
as Walter Hooten
Lleana Stratton
as Fran Gibson
Jed Resnick
as Fran's Son
Jim Marcus
as Dr. Marcus
William Keeler
as Dean--Businessman
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Spanking the Monkey

Critic Reviews for Spanking the Monkey

All Critics (31) | Top Critics (8)

Full Review… | September 7, 2011
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Top Critic

Full Review… | July 15, 1994
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic

Full Review… | June 20, 2008
Top Critic

Full Review… | February 9, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

A bitingly funny tale of frustrated sexuality.

Full Review… | April 9, 2007

Audience Reviews for Spanking the Monkey


"A gripping comedy about letting go."

David O. Russell burst onto the scene with this challenging and controversial film about an introverted college student and the incestuous disaster of a summer that follows his freshman year.

There is something hypnotic about Spanking The Monkey. You watch Jeremy Davies as his summer goes straight downhill and he is stuck taking care of his manic depressive mother, and you are intrigued. That is if you have a good attention span and a tolerance for dark humor. Because this is ink-black humor at its smirkiest. So you are either in for an enjoyably bizarre ride of the demented fashion or you are about to be majorly turned off. In many ways, this is like The Graduate, except this indie devil wants to blow away the dated shock of having an affair with a married, older woman with an even more shocking and rather disturbing taboo.

David O. Russell, who has a bizarre and neurotic look at family life (see his Flirting With Disaster, an even better film), gives us an interesting character study of a tormented college student who is virtually nailed to the ground by his dysfunctional parents. I can see why some people may hate this movie from its difficult subject matter, but I feel like I was sucked in this guy's life and that's what I love about movies that have the power to do that. Yet, as the film grew darker and sadder, with a bittersweet ending that felt like a high note of hope compared to the rest of the film, I was relieved when the ending credits came and I could return from the trance and go back to my decidedly happier lifestyle.

Lorenzo von Matterhorn

Super Reviewer

Okay, I'm resolving to stop reading the synopsis before I watch a 'cutting edge' film. I postponed viewing this incredible 'little' movie because I have an aversion to incest. Not to mention that the title put me off a trite as well. Let's be real, I knew this wasn't going to be a zoology piece on the discipline of arboreal primates. The point is, if you can get past your own neorotic hangups and lingering emotional baggage left over from your dysfunctional childhood, you'll see that Spanking the Monkey is rather good.

*NOTE: Just to save you some time, as soon as you see Jeremy Davies you're going to wonder where the heck you've seen him before... Saving Private Ryan.

Randy Tippy

Super Reviewer

Spanking The Monkey is probably one of the best Dark Comedies I have ever seen. Jeremy Davies has always been a good actor and has never put out a bad performance, even in Twister when he had four or five scenes, he is just a quirky and very talented actor.
Great movie, really great acting, and a very interesting plot make Spanking The Monkey essential viewing for lovers of Independent Cinema.

Jason Reneau
Jason Reneau

Super Reviewer

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