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Secretary

A movie directed by Steven Shainberg

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Edgy and Kinky... and definitely not light entertainment

  • Jul 17, 2003
  • by
Rating:
+1
Maggie Gyllenhaal manages to take an incredibly complex role and make it watchable. Lee is a young girl with a history of psychological problems that have led to destructive and suicidal behavior. After a brief glimpse of the sophisticated submissive that she becomes, the story is told in flashback beginning with her release from a psychiatric facility. Coming home to a timid and nervous mother, it's easy to question how effective her treatment was when she immediately takes shelter in her room and reverently fondles the knives that she's used to cut herself in the past.

She applies for a secretarial job with Edward, a strangely detached attorney played by James Spader (a few years ago this role would have gone to Christopher Walken). It quickly becomes evident that his performance standards are not necessarily within the norms of conventional office conduct, more apropos of a dungeon than an office. But Lee discovers a bond (no pun intended) that she had never before imagined, and the interplay between secretary and boss, master and submissive becomes fascinating to watch. At times it becomes questionable as to who is manipulating who. But it's clear that these are two very strange personalities that have drifted into a very symbiotic and ultimately beneficial relationship.

If images of sadomasochism and bondage will offend you, stay clear of this. But for a very complex character study, it's difficult to top. I can't necessarily say that I would like to have Edward and Lee as next door neighbors, but it is nice that they could find each other.

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More Secretary (2002 movie) reviews
Quick Tip by . July 28, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
If this ranks under "Chick Flicks," be cautious. Maggie G's daring in her role (vanilla S&M, masturbation, sex in the office!) and James S's is well-cast as the imperious boss. But the plot veers all over the place, as with "Something Wild" or "Punch Drunk Love," and I was disappointed by its uneven pace and resolution.
review by . May 03, 2009
This is a very different movie about a woman who gets a job as a secretary. It seems the more the boss abuses here (he loves to read circle her typos), the more she enjoys it. It gets to the point where her boss finally starts spanking her. This changes her psyche and she no longer is attracted to her fiancee, who thinks it is a joke when she requests he spank her.     Her whole world seems lost, when her boss tires of the game and proceeds to fire her. She then decides to go …
review by . August 28, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Finally, something off the beaten track.     Cons: Not going to be for everyone (even though the sadomasochism is mild)     The Bottom Line: I said almost! Sheesh, even I have my limits...     Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot. All right, now that you’re already weirded out by my above statement (that is, if you already know what this movie is about), I only say that because I think James …
review by . January 30, 2006
Secretary is the first of its kind - a very dark love story. First of its kind in that it deals with themes never seen before seen in mainstream Hollywood cinema - S&M, sexual dominance and submission. It was okay to me but it sort of left me cold in the end.    Maggie Gyllenhaal is outstanding in a potential minefield of a role - she handles it with dignity and even provides some effective dark humor. The story here is that her character, Lee, applies for a job as a secretary …
review by . September 17, 2004
posted in Movie Hype
This is a very different movie about a woman who gets a job as a secretary. It seems the more the boss abuses here (he loves to read circle her typos), the more she enjoys it. It gets to the point where her boss finally starts spanking her. This changes her psyche and she no longer is attracted to her fiancee, who thinks it is a joke when she requests he spank her.    Her whole world seems lost, when her boss tires of the game and proceeds to fire her. She then decides to go …
review by . January 22, 2004
This movie just FLOORED me! I am a big James Spader fan and Maggie Gyllenhaal (Mona Lisa Smile) gives a   wonderful first starring performance... A young girl that has many life problems, wants someone to love her despite the fact and will stop AT NOTHING, even shaming & degradation doled out by her sad sack of a boss to get him to PAY ATTENTION to HER... If you are looking for a real eye-opening, erotic, fetish FILLED movie, (without the usual gratuitous skin shots) then this is the movie …
review by . September 12, 2003
The most important reason to see this movie is to watch Maggie Gylenhaal. This performance is the reason the word "incandescent" exists. She makes herself totally believable and VULNERABLE throughout. It is a brave performance.It's great to see James Spader back in a worthwhile role again. He's always been an interesting, quirky, charismatic performer. Spader plays an attorney (who never has any clients, apparently!) who appears to be very shy and socially backward. He hires Gylenhaal, also shy …
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Michael Meredith ()
Ranked #521
Self-styled writer, traveller, philosopher, political pundit, photographer, loving husband, devoted father, grandpa, son, advisor, eBusiness professional. Maybe someday I'll discover what I really … more
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Wiki

This kinky love story features a standout performance by Maggie Gyllenhaal, an offbeat young actress in her first starring role. Gyllenhaal plays Lee, a nervous girl who compulsively cuts herself, who gets a job as a secretary for Edward, an imperious lawyer (James Spader, an old hand at tales of perverse affection). Edward's reprimands for typos and spelling errors begin with mild humiliation, but as Lee responds to his orders--which are driven as much by his own anxieties and fears as any sense of order--the punishments escalate to spankings, shackles, and more.Secretarywalks a fine line. It finds sly humor in these sadomasochistic doings without turning them into a gag, and it takes Lee and Edward's mutual desires seriously without getting self-righteous or pompous. Certainly not a movie for everyone, but some people may be unexpectedly stirred up by this smart and steamy tale of repressed passion.--Bret Fetzer
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Details

Director: Steven Shainberg
Genre: Comedy
Release Date: September 20, 2002
MPAA Rating: R
DVD Release Date: July 15, 2008
Runtime: 1hr 52min
Studio: Lionsgate
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