No wonder all the talk is in praise of Alberta Watson. Watson needed a little bit of luck and got it: Would she be interested in playing the mother in a black comedy that Russell, who has since directed Flirting with Disaster, has described as "The Graduate moving in truly uncharted waters"? She jumped at it. In Spanking the Monkey, Alberta Watson played a sexy and clinically depressed mother who ends up sleeping with her son.
Russell has said, and, indeed, sex, deception, and family-inspired neuroses are his themes. His gift for clever detours reconcile circumcision jokes, beach-volleyball babe twins, and Reagan acid into a farce. With each movie, Russell has "exorcised certain behaviors. With Spanking the Monkey, that whole wanting to just having sex with my mother. A twisted coming-of-age tale, it begins in detailed realism, then pushes its characters over the edge into lunacy. Neurosis-tinged and, despite its theme of incest, the comedy is couched as a cautionary yarn.