David O. Russell – Spanking the Monkey (1994)

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Synopsis

The debut feature from writer-director David O. Russell tells the darkly comic story of a young pre-med student’s nearly unbearable summer vacation. When Ray Aibelli’s promiscuous father orders him to stay home for the summer and care for his mother, who recently broke her leg, he misses out on an incredibly important internship. As Ray struggles with the realization that he’s wasting his summer doing nothing at home, he must contend with an endless string of seemingly insurmountable circumstances, including a failed brief relationship with a young high school student. Things reach their boiling point when Ray and his mother get drunk one night, leading to an incestuous encounter that pushes him over the edge. Humiliated, depressed, and downtrodden, Ray decides to commit suicide to end his troubles forever. Russell’s racy story walks a tightrope between deep psychological drama and taboo comedy, resulting in a highly original tone that keeps SPANKING THE MONKEY from buckling under the pressure. Featuring a standout performance by Davies, as well as Watson, who recalls Anne Bancroft’s Mrs. Robinson in THE GRADUATE, this is one of the 1990’s most auspicious directorial debuts. Continue reading