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Spanking the Monkey [DVD]
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Looking forward to a prestigious summer internship in Washington, D.C., pre-med college student Raymond (Saving Private Ryan's Jeremy Davies) has his dreams put on hold when he's forced to stay at home caring for his invalid mother (Alberta Watson, The Sweet Hereafter, TV's 24). Constantly harassed by his domineering, traveling salesman father, Raymond struggles to deal with his mother's bed-ridden anxieties and his first, stumbling attempts to romance the naive girl next door.
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That means that one can at least appreciate it. I can't deny, however, that I did find it a very hard watch towards the end. Not so much for the actual incest, which I felt was heavily contextualised and ergo justified, but more for the aftermath. I won't ruin it here, but there were a number of scenes following the actual... That made the film actually difficult to make it through to the credits. And that was where the film lost a star for me; I'm all for film challenging, and not being easy (one of my favourite's is "A Short Film About Killing", for the very reason that I was saddened and shocked for days afterwards) but when a film depresses you and makes you question whether you should have bothered in the first place, then that's where it goes from being impressively powerful to not a good experience...
However, I did enjoy most of the film. I also thought it was incredibly funny in places, in a very dark way. The performances were superb. The script was excellent. The taboo area was treated with respect. I also understand that my reaction was purely a personal one, and with this film, it is very much up to the individual to make up their own mind. So there's a lot to recommend, even if the final act does make it a gruelling experience.
All I can say is at least give it a try. Good cinema should always take you to new places and show you new things, and this film cannot be accused of not doing that.
The subject matter may put you off watching this classic but try not to let it. When the final credits appear (to the haunting strains of Morphine's "In spite of me") you get the kind of warm glow that only Coen brothers films conjure....
If you appreciate sublime talent and detest Arnold Scwarzenegger you owe it to yourself to watch it! And if you are an Arnie fan, watch it anyway and feel the stench of ignorance leaving your soul forever!
You will split your sides with laughter watching this film. It really is that good. What I love about David O Russell is that he manages to extract humour out of seemingly hyper serious situations. A son getting innappropriately involved with his mother is hardly the funniest topic on the surface, yet with a script as tight as O Russell's all the absurdist humour of the situation pours out.
This is a must see film for people who like mildly subversive cinema, American comedies and the legend that is David O Russell.
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