Spanking the Monkey Reviews
Ray Aibelli, Jeremy Davies, has to forego a prestigious summer medical internship in Washington D.C to take care of his bored housewife mother Susan, Alberta Watson, who has broken her leg. Susan has been neglected by her husband Tom, Benjamin Hendrickson, who spends his money on prostitutes and cannot afford to pay for Ray's second year at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Incestuous attraction develops between mother and son as Ray's attempts to begin a sexual relationship with local teenager Toni Peck, Carla Gallo, fail. Ray comes of age despite being stuck in a very difficult situation and ultimately decides to simply run away.
The chemistry between Davies and Watson was wonderful as they are able to completely sell their taboo attraction and also appear as a normal mother and son. Russell gifts them with brilliant dialogue but when they discuss Ray's "boner boat" and throw cheese at the television their connection is weird but magnetic. In terms of their characters we get the usual admission that Tom didn't want a child, very much like The Graduate (1967), and we understand that Susan is considered attractive by both Ray's friends and Toni's father. The clichÃ (C)s are dealt with humorously and have an extra bite to them which makes their use feel fresh and exciting instead of overused. Even though it was clear that these two were not meant to be together I found myself for rooting for them as those around them treat them poorly.
The supporting cast of characters were also fantastically written and played with Gallo as Toni Peck and the unknown to me Judette Jones as the nosy Aunt Helen being particular highlights. Gallo was 19 when she played the role of an awkward teenager but she pulls it off so well as she removes her retainer during a kiss with him and aggressively pursues a disaffected young man. She is uncomfortable with her burgeoning sexuality but has the confidence of a young woman in confronting her boyfriend's mother. Jones is giving a Geraldine Chaplin in Nashville (1975) style performance when she is so excitingly annoying and frustrating with her inane twittering about inconsequential parts of her life. Her nagging of Susan and Ray and the fact that she drops in her issues as a driver caused me to titter and the fact that her presence brings them closer together helps.
Russell is good at showing the build up of sexual tension between mother and son. We see massages, showers and Ray catching his barely clothed mother in his arms. The sight of him rubbing his body raw as he attempts to push back against the thoughts of beginning a sexual relationship with his mother it is painful but also makes the moment at which he consummates his relationship with her more dramatic. Russell never focuses for two long on their actual sexual activity as their intercourse is implied but we do get scenes of him taking out his frustration on her.
I would urge you to watch this film because it is short, enjoyable and heralds the career of one of the better mainstream filmmakers of the 2010s. Watson, Davies, Jones and Gallo are all terrific in their roles and Russell's screenplay gives them great things to do. It's not gratuitous in how it deals with it's subject matter and it's certainly better than some of Russell's later attempts at dark comedies.
Select tracks from Morphine's album Cure for Pain are used throughout the film, including "In Spite of Me" which plays over the end credits.
Spanking the Monkey was a box office success, grossing $1,359,736 on a $200,000 budget.
The film won the Audience Award at the 1994 Sundance Film Festival and the Independent Spirit Award for Best First Screenplay
The title is a slang phrase for masturbation and is used in the film by one of the teenage characters. It was filmed in Pawling, New York.
man this is 1 strange movie 2 watch, but it is such a fantastic movie 2 watch.....I think that this is such a really well written/acted/directed movie 2 watch, its got a great cast throughout this movie......Its got a good soundtrack throughout this movie, man this is 1 strange movie 2 watch but it Is such a great movie 2 watch with a good cast throughout this movie.......
What I DIDN'T find tolerable was this abhorrently unstable protagonist and his self-centered personality. I got so tired of him and his whining during the second half of the movie that continuing to view it was a difficult endeavor. Seriously, Ray has problems, and I'm not even talking about his vibrant curiosity for having a relationship with his mother. Knowing drama queens in real life is bad enough. Watching them in a film doesn't help.
There were just a lot of things about the film I thought could have gone a lot better. The first half of the story was fine. As soon as Ray started acting like a complete prick is when I was no longer interested in it. I love drama, but this character was just unlikeable in every aspect.
Good to watch, if you can get over Ray's irritating whimpering.