I can still remember how Spanking The Monkey made sons and moms a little nervous around each other, especially if they watched it together. This was David O. Russell’s debut film and it made quite the impression during the indie film revolution of the 90′s.
Spanking The Monkey came out in 1994 when indie films were falling out of the air after the Sundance Film Festival really kicked into high gear with them. We were seeing everything from Sex, Lies and Videotape led the fray at Sundance and Spanking The Monkey was another darling at Sundance and critics raved about it. This was also right before the reign of Harmony Korine (Gummo) and Gus Van Sant who took indie films to that next level. Spanking The Monkey is one of those films that you just have to see (most have heard about it), but it’s a very curious character study of coming of age and that mother/son relationship bond in a dark comedy way. It’s quite the bleak film in a Todd Solondz way, and you’d never think that Russell would go on to make Three Kings.
Spanking The Monkey takes a extremely close look at the sexual agonies and gloomy life of Raymond Aibelli (Jeremy Davies), a pre-med student who’s forced to give up an internship in Washington to stay home in suburbia to nurse his mother who has broken her leg. Ray’s father is a hypocritical, horndog cheating salesman of those wonderful Anthony Robbins type videos. After dragging Ray back home, he lays out his very precise ground rules. All of these rules involve his dog, a German Shepherd that gets better treatment than either his wife or his son. After basically forcing his son to put his life on hold, he goes further to tell him that he is not to use the car to walk the dog and he has to clean its delicate gums with a special toothbrush every day. This is the summer that Ray realizes he will have to live with and most of it is spent trying to find a quiet place to spank the monkey without the family dog constantly intruding along with taking care of his mother and dealing with his feelings for the girl next door. This is not to mention that he has to shower his mother which for me would be many a son’s worst nightmare come true.
If you don’t know what happens next in this film, best movies ever is not about to spoil it, but we don’t suggest sons watching it with their moms.