Mother is in bed after a suicide attempt. Daddy is a travelling salesman in do-it-yourself videos. This leaves Ray, the teenage son, trapped in a world of laundry, feedings, pills and vodka which is life with the depressed mother. There is not even a corner for wanking (spanking the monkey is slang for this) – Frank the dog howls demandingly outside the bathroom door.
At the same time the dog is the only salvation in a claustrophobic indoor life with a stifling mother. And even an unwitting guide towards his first teenage love, Toni, the daughter of a psychiatrist. Despite Ray’s introvert nature Toni becomes interested and they begin an awkward sexual relationship, riddled with performance anxiety. This relationship affects Ray’s role as a nurse towards the mother. There are feelings of sexual jealousy.
The washing rituals with the attractive mother, who broke her leg during her suicide attempt, becomes increasingly intimate and soon becomes incestuous.
Despite its gravity the film has a comical subtext. The delicate subject is saturated with humour. Here the actual scene of incest becomes more of a metaphor for a child’s liberation from its parents. The familiar Oedipus theme is seen in a new light. Here the dog becomes a guide in an otherwise confused human kingdom. The film won the Audience Award at this year’s Sundance festival. –Stockholm International Film Festival
David Owen Russell born in August 20, 1958 is an American film director and screenwriter. He has been praised for the loose, comic energy that characterizes his work, and notorious for his explosive confrontations with cast members.
Russell was born in New York City, New York to a Jewish father and an Italian American Catholic mother, and was raised in an “atheistic” household. He graduated from Amherst College in 1981, majoring in Political Science and English. He is good friends with film directors Alexander Payne and Spike Jonze.
His first directorial effort was the independent dark comedy Spanking the Monkey in 1994, starring Jeremy Davies as a troubled young man who develops an incestuous relationship with his mother (Alberta Watson). Despite the controversial subject matter, the film received critical acclaim and won him Best First Screenplay and Best First Feature from the Independent Spirit Awards, as well as the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival. read more
O. Russell started as he meant to go on with another dark and deadpan comedy, controversial upon release due to it’s inclusion of an incestual mother-son storyline. Those scenes are handled with taste and fit in well with the film’s overarching themes of neurosis, sexual discovery and over-parenting. Bold and brave; it’s a strong debut.
Yuck - I do not like Jeremy Davies' acting, in this or any other films. "Secretary" comes to mind. This film gave me the creeps.