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.
by Derek Armstrong synopsis