|Spanking the Monkey|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||David O. Russell|
|Produced by||Dean Silvers|
|Written by||David O. Russell|
|Music by||David Carbonara|
|Edited by||Pamela Martin|
Spanking the Monkey is a 1994 American black comedy film written and directed by David O. Russell. The title is a slang phrase for masturbation and is used in the film by one of the teenage characters. It was filmed in Pawling, New York.
Ray Aibelli has finished his first year of college at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has received a prestigious summer medical internship which he has to forego to take care of his mother, Susan Aibelli, a married, lonely woman, who has suffered a leg injury at home just as her husband is about to leave on his job as a traveling salesman. Ray's relationship with his father is seen to be troubled as his father is overly controlling. The relationship between Susan and Mr. Aibelli is also shown to be suffering because he is later shown to be cheating with prostitutes and Susan feels disappointed by her lack of achievement in life.
Ray has to take care of his mother by helping her to shower and massaging her legs leading to him seeing her naked and experiencing a moment of intimacy when he massages her upper thigh. He feels extreme guilt for his incestuous sexual feelings and rubs his skin raw to punish himself. His sexual frustration is increased due to the fact that he is unable to masturbate, due to the family's dog repeatedly interrupting him. His high school friends are shown to be immature and Ray is seen to feel increasingly isolated from them. He also begins a relationship with local teenager Toni Peck who he struggles to communicate with both socially and when having sex, leading to an accusation of rape.
Ray explains to his mother how their sexual encounter developed and she offers him sexual advice and he later openly stares at her body in the shower, increasing their physical intimacy. Ray has an opportunity to leave his mother behind when his aunt, Helen, offers to be her caretaker and he excitedly prepares to leave the next day. Both Ray and Susan are annoyed by Helen and they have a sexual encounter late at night that leads to Ray missing his bus the next day. Ray's father informs him that he will no longer be able to pay for his university tuition causing him to become even more stressed about his future.
Toni and Ray are seen to have resumed their sexual relationship and are kissing when Susan interrupts them, she slaps Toni and injures her. Ray and Susan have a loud argument that quickly devolves into groping and kissing. Toni's father comes to their house to complain but Susan is able to flirt with him and prevent him from punishing Ray.
Ray attempts to commit suicide by hanging himself from the bathroom door but Susan interrupts him, he complains that he can't achieve anything here and attempts to initiate sexual contact with Susan. He kisses her passionately but then pulls back and attempts to strangle her to death before stopping. His friends invite him to hang out with them again and he accepts joining them near the river. After being provoked by one of his friends he jumps off a steep cliff and is seen hitching a ride with a truck driver early the next morning.
Spanking the Monkey was a box office success, grossing $1,359,736 on a $200,000 budget.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 91% based on reviews from 23 critics. The site's consensus states: "David O. Russell's feature debut scores with an endearing cast and offbeat humor, finding compelling sweetness in perverse places." On Metacritic it has a score of 66% based on reviews from 15 critics.
The film won the Audience Award at the 1994 Sundance Film Festival and the Independent Spirit Award for Best First Screenplay.