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 ... more »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, travelling 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.« less
What "Garden State" didn't have the cojones to be...
Eduardo Nietzsche | Houston | 01/22/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I Netflixed this movie simply because I really liked David O. Russell's other work ("I Heart Huckabees," "Three Kings," "Flirting with Disaster") and it did not disappoint.
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!"
jt1252 | Lawrence, KS USA | 04/08/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Brilliant, powerful, and while there are moments of dark humor, they are few and far between. This is a powerful, compelling drama, and once you get into it, you'll sort of BECOME Ray Aebelli (Jeremy Davies) and you'll appreciate one of the greatest acting performances in history. This isn't just about "masturabtion and incest." As another reviewer said, it is about being trapped in a situation you don't want to be in, and being unable to find a way out. When you view the end (which will come with a jump, that's all I'm going to say on the matter so as not to spoil it), pay attention to the metaphor that is used when he falls and....you'll have to watch."
Dr. Joe Kort | Royal Oak, Michigan United States | 12/24/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This movie is the first time I have seen mother-son incest portrayed so accurately.
Different from fathers who abuse their children sexually, mother's do so in more covert ways making the child feel they are the perpetrator. The mother in this movie was covert in that she would quietly initiate her son to behave in sexual ways and when he would it would look like it was what "he" wanted when, in truth, it was what "she" wanted.
No son ever wants to have sex with his mother. And even if he has the fantasy the mother should stop it and never engage it. These type of mothers are very sick and unfortunately I see the results of what they to in the therapy room amongst my male clients.
The wreckless behavior he begins to engage in is so common among the men sexually abused by their mothers.
Anyone watching this film should remember that even though it was the son who appears to be initiating the sexual contact with his mother, it is "her" that is grooming him to do so. She is the perpetrator--not the son! Ever!"
Not for all tastes, but a good film nonetheless
Genevieve Hayes | Australia | 05/20/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After being forced to give up a prestigious internship in order to "babysit" his mother, who has a broken leg, a teenager finds himself falling in love with his mother.
Much like "Happiness", a black comedy about a pedophile, "Spanking the Monkey" is the sort of film that will not appeal to everyone. This film is billed as a black comedy, and I suppose it is, in retrospect, but I didn't feel like I was watching a comedy when I was watching it. What this film is, is a truly amazing character study of a suburban family that contains some laughs but also realizes that a lot of what it's dealing with just shouldn't be laughed at. Writer/director David O. Russell ("Three Kings", "I Heart Huckabees") takes a subject that most people wouldn't touch with a 10 foot pole, that is, incest, and explains how it could happen and the consequences if it does happen. The result is a film that feels completely believable and that is also completely compelling.
This is an intelligent film that doesn't provide the audience with easy answers. In fact, a lot of questions that this film raises are left unanswered at the end, like, for example, who did initiate the relationship in the first place, Raymond or his mother? It is also a very restrained film, and all the better for it. Don't expect to see any sex scenes between a 19 year old and a 40 year old. Everything is left to the audience's imagination.
Not being a big David O. Russell fan (I didn't like "Flirting With Disaster" or "I Heart Huckabees"), I almost didn't bother with this film (I only saw it because I bought it as party of a triple pack with two other films that I did want) but I am so glad that I did as this is one of the most incredible films that I have seen in my entire life. If you can get past the initial concept, I highly recommend that you see this film. "
thecableguy | 12/07/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I have an old laserdisc of this film that, years ago, I used to watch over and over. I popped it in again recently to see if I still liked the film enough to buy the DVD. It's not as funny as I remembered. Actually, it's horrifying. The only reason I'd consider buying the DVD is to give it to a therapist to watch and discuss it.
Ray (Jeremy Davies, "Saving Private Ryan") has to pass up an internship to the Surgeon General's office so he can take care of his mother, Susan (Alberta Watson, "Guilt by Association"), who's bedridden due to depression and a broken leg. His father Tom (Benjamin Hendrickson, "Regarding Henry") is busy traveling around the country selling motivational tapes. Susan and Ray develop an unhealthy relationship.
This is a very angry film. Maybe I didn't notice this before because I was distracted by the in-jokes, like the winky "Shaking Hands" homage to "The Graduate" when Tom confronts Ray -- or maybe I was too angry myself to notice the director's anger. David O. Russell made the very funny "Flirting with Disaster" after this, which in retrospect, "Spanking the Monkey" must have freed him to make. "Spanking" is worth a try if you like disturbing psychological comedy(?), but it's one that probably won't hurt you to miss."