Spanking The Monkey Review

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An incestuous relationship develops between a son and his mother.


Mother-son relationships can be tricky things. Just ask Sigmund Freud. Or, for that matter, Norman Bates. Up until now, however, Hollywood has run scared of looking at the subject of incest in anything other than the most lurid manner. Not any longer. David O. Russell's impressive debut feature may be about many things, but there is no getting away from the fact that, two thirds of the way through, the central character gets it on with his mum in the most serious way imaginable.

Ray (Davies) is a medical student who has to forego a prestigious summer internship after his mother (Watson) breaks her leg. To make matters worse, dad (Benjamin Hendrickson) has gone away on a sales trip, all Ray's old friends turn out to be sadistic small town bastards and every time he retreats to the bathroom for a quick "Sherman" the family dog howls the place down. Within this atmosphere mother and son are forced into ever closer physical and emotional proximity until, one drunken evening, Ray's daily massage of his mum's legs turns into something altogether different.

Naturally, given the subject matter, the film's tone tends towards the decidedly dark. Russell's success, however, is in creating a film that avoids being freaky or an exercise in titillation by employing a mixture of sympathetic writing and black, black comedy. The result is a thought-provoking movie that should not be allowed to disappear beneath this year's Dredds and Batmans.

An unsavoury subject matter gets a surprisingly funny and perceptive treatment.