Giuseppe Andrews' Monkey (2005)

Here it is - the first of five films that make up the Bathrobe Homeschool Box Set. This time out, Andrews tackles addiction in his own unique, unhinged way.


Director: Giuseppe Andrews
Cast: Walt Dongo, Vietnam Ron, Tyree, Walter Patterson
Distributor: Self-Released
Studio: Self-Released
UK Release Date: 2009-04-30
US Release Date: 2009-04-30

Addiction is a terrible thing. Not only is it damaging physically and psychologically, but it destroys aspects of one's life that they barely have direct control over. Families suffer, as do friends, careers, and acquaintances, and while the person under the spell of their own individual affliction has no real connection to said reality, the repercussions can be powerful and last forever. Of all the filmmakers poised to make a profound statement on such a compulsion, Giuseppe Andrews would be king of the shortbus list. By utilizing a cast of trailer park residents, some of whom have their own battles with the bottle to contend with, he has an authentic source of real human misery to work with. So what does he go and do with his examination of addiction, Monkey? He makes the most literally symbolic statement on the subject ever attempted.

Apartheid has been ordered to Green Hockers Rehab Center for excessive drinking. His habit is so bad that his life has become one continuous case of the DTs. As a matter of fact, a disembodied old man with the same initials seems to be controlling his attempt at sobriety. Forced to wear a monkey around his neck to highlight his problem, said simian comes with two bags of rocks around its legs. The longer Apartheid stays, the more rocks will be removed and the less weight he will have to be subjected. Of course, DT doesn't help. He offers disquieting visions of smiley faced stones that punch people out, remote control apes that choke people to death, and others with equally oppressive addictions of their own. As he battles with the bottle, losing most of the time, all Apartheid wants to do is get away from this abusive clinic. Little does he know that, just like Hotel California, he can check out any time he likes, but he can never, ever, ever, leave.

It would figure that the man who is rewriting the rules of modern moviemaking would take a concept as clichéd as alcoholism and turn it into a rude, crude Dr. Seuss picture book with plenty of belligerence and balls. Monkey is The Day of Wine and Roses without the saccharine sentimentality. It's Leaving Las Vegas without the fake star turns. It's funnier that Arthur, more insightful than Lost Weekend, and as daring an expose on the horror of liquor as any gore-drenched DUI educational film. Andrews, using his standard company of creative oddities, has latched onto the notion of visualizing every step in Walt Dongo's depressing recovery and he's not afraid to explore the most intimate and horrific elements of said struggle. This is a weird, almost religious experience, the kind of film that follows an obviously drunken man through a world in which everything he feels, everything he experiences, everything he fears, and everything he hopes for, is plainly played out onscreen for everyone to see.

Not enough is said about Andrews' trailer park thespians. Sure, most are hired because they are capable of reading his often ridiculous (and racy) dialogue with a completely straight face. Some are mere images, visually arresting facets of fringe humanity that crave the attention of the camera. But within his own lunatic company, he has some certified superstars. While conversations always center on Vietnam Ron, Tyree, the late great Bill Nowlin, Dongo doesn't get nearly the respect he deserves. He's always a reliable comic relief, his gin-blossomed lumbering providing counterpoint to Andrews' more meaningful rants. And he usually doesn't get a chance to guide the narrative. He almost always in the background, a solid supporting player to a Miles Dougal or a Walter Patterson.

But in Monkey, Dongo soars. He elevates the material with his masterful performance. He never once treats the various outlandish elements as anything other than real, even as he's beating himself up with a pebble. From the stuffed simian around his neck to the various fights he has with other characters (including a hilarious Vietnam Ron in a sexually excited wolf costume), he is always present and perfection. This is especially true later in the film, when a clearly intoxicated Apartheid stumbles around the local streets, his inebriation barely controllable. This makes the last act situation all the more sad, and oddly moving. While Andrews has excelled at making viewers laugh, Monkey may be the first film in his oeuvre that will make you cry. The ending is just that poignant.

Of course, those hoping that the doublewide devotee hasn't lost his edge will be pleased to see Tyree pleasuring himself with a VCR, people defecating out of their mouth (the purpose is plainly obvious within the context of the film) and lots of bristly blue humor. There are many intriguing subtexts as well, from DT's own personal demons (including the dog he accidentally flushes down the lavatory) to the plaintive hula performed by wannabe lover Parva (new to this critic, she is nothing short of a revelation). There are times when Andrews is clearly channeling David Lynch, a 'grotesqueries as beauty' ideal permeating everything. But then there are moments when the filmmaker breaks out of the mimicry mode and simply lets his own indelible muse to shine. The results continue his ascent into the realm of the artform's greats.

Monkey may not seem like much at first. Andrews does hide a lot of his meaning inside juvenilia and the desire to shock. But if you've followed his career over the last decade or so, you will see that there's plenty of truth inside the toilet humor. Addiction drives this film, from the moment we see Dongo trying to quit to the circumstance his inability to stop leads him to. The power of alcohol (or sex, or drugs, or any other compulsion) over a human being is so depressing, so undeniably tough to sit through that you have to have some scatology to cut through the cruelty. With a title like Monkey, you might expect something silly in a "who flung poo" kind of way. But the reality is much more raw. Sure, you will giggle at Giuseppe Andrews' off color conceits. After you boil away the burlesque, however, the pain remains.


In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

Scholar Judith May Fathallah's work blurs lines between author and ethnographer, fan experiences and genre TV storytelling.

In Fanfiction and the Author: How Fanfic Changes Popular Culture Texts, author Judith May Fathallah investigates the progressive intersections between popular culture and fan studies, expanding scholarly discourse concerning how contemporary blurred lines between texts and audiences result in evolving mediated practices.

Keep reading... Show less

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.