Watch It

On DVD: Now | On Blu-ray: TBD

Spanking the Monkey Details


David O. Russell burst onto the scene with this challenging and controversial film about an introverted college student and the incestuous disaster of a summer that follows his freshman year. Ray Aibelli (Jeremy Davies) returns home for what is supposed to be a short visit with his family prior to leaving for Washington D.C., where he will intern in the surgeon general's office. Ray's plans are quickly scuttled by his acerbic and controlling father (Benjamin Hendrickson), a salesman leaving on an extended business trip, who strong-arms Ray into caring for his depressed mother (Alberta Watson) while she recovers from torn ligaments in her leg. Gently prodding his mother to begin using crutches so he will no longer have to change her bedpans and carry her about the house, and so he can still arrive belatedly for the internship, Ray discovers that his mother is not only physically but emotionally dependent on his presence. She begins making inappropriately tender displays of her affection for him, which only become more complicated when he has to rub lotion underneath her cast to soothe her itches. As that relationship grows increasingly fuzzy, Ray must also deal with the sputtering advances of a neighborhood high school girl (Carla Gallo) and the overly aggressive chiding of his estranged group of friends. Russell both scripted and directed this critically acclaimed debut, which courted controversy by following the mother-son relationship into uncomfortably frank and off-limits territory. ~ Derek Armstrong, Rovi

  • Release date:July 15, 1994


Awarded by
Independent Spirit Awards Jeremy Davies Best Debut Performance 1994 Nominee
Sundance Film Festival David O. Russell Audience Award 1993 Winner
Independent Spirit Awards David O. Russell Best First Feature 1994 Winner
Independent Spirit Awards David O. Russell Best First Screenplay 1994 Winner
Independent Spirit Awards Carla Gallo Best Supporting Actress 1994 Nominee


Jeremy Davies
as Ray Aibelli
Alberta Watson
as Susan Aibelli
Benjamin Hendrickson
as Tom Aibelli
Carla Gallo
as Toni Peck
Judette Jones
as Aunt Helen
Josh Phillip Weinstein
as Joel
Dean Silvers
as Boss
Josh Phillip Weinstein
as Joel


David O. Russell
Dean Silvers
David O. Russell
Michael Mayers
Susan Block
Production Designer
Janet Grillo
Executive Producer
David O. Russell
Executive Producer
Chad Braden
First Assistant Director