Lee Holloway (Maggie Gyllenhaal) has a few strikes against her when she applies for a secretarial position at the law office of E. Edward Grey (James Spader). At first the work seems quite normal but soon, in between typin... more »g, filing and coffee making, Lee and Mr. Grey embark on a more personal relationship together, crossing the lines of conduct that would give any human resource director the vapors!« less
"The joy of SECRETARY lies in its characters, all of whom are quirky (to say the least). And if you leave the film thankful that you run with "normal" folks, then you probably just don't know the person in the adjacent work cube all that well.As the film begins, Lee Holloway (Maggie Gyllenhaal) has just been released from institutional therapy. Lee has a level of self-esteem that's abysmal to the point of involving self-mutilation with sharp objects. (She even has her own first aid kit to disinfect and treat the wounds as soon as she makes them!) And whatever therapy she got didn't stick. But, life goes on, so she takes a typing class, and subsequently lands a job as a SECRETARY for the perfectionist lawyer "Mr. Grey" (James Spader). Mutual assessment soon reveals potential for an S&M relationship where Grey is the "S" and Lee the "M". Courting, so to speak, and foreplay involve the boss making increasingly difficult demands of Lee's job performance with the mutual understanding that the latter will fail and punishment will follow. And what's a poor girl to do when making deliberate spelling errors in legal correspondence just doesn't push Grey's lust button anymore? Spader's Grey persona is so deliciously creepy - not sinister, just creepy - that his paralegal does her work in such an unusual hiding place that she's rarely seen, even by the audience. And the delightful Gyllenhaal's portrayal of Holloway is so otherwise girl-next-door, except for her preoccupation with cutting edges, that I'm now surreptitiously scrutinizing our office secretaries for barely-hidden scars. And Jeremy Davies is terrific as Lee's nominal boyfriend, the painfully pathetic Peter.While SECRETARY was in the theaters, it probably wasn't a film that you would've taken your prim and proper grandmother to see for her day trip away from the assisted care facility. It has some artistically done full-frontal nudity and a couple scenes of X-rated heavy breathing. SECRETARY is a stylish and darkly humorous treatment of a delicate subject that allows the viewer to snicker without the guilty feeling of having been discovered with a dirty magazine. (Of course, if Granny finds it knee-slapping funny, you might want to rethink your assumptions about her younger years.) My only complaint was that the ending is perhaps a little too drawn out and tidy. A snappier, more edgy conclusion would have made the film a perfect gem.Now, where did I stash those red, felt tip markers? I have to proof an associate's work."
Hollywood goes mainstream with D/s
Margaret P. Quigley | Morro Bay, CA United States | 10/11/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Both characters in this first-of-it's-kind movie were well drawn. It's a first because it shows the S/M, D/s dynamic in a sympathetic, caring, humorous way; and it's a mainstream film ... not a parody or cautionary tale.E. Edward Grey (an excellent James Spader reminiscent of "Sex, Lies and Videotape") could have used a little more background but that's quibbling. Lee's character was simply marvelous from start to finish. In my small hometown, a few people even applauded at the end. We've come a long way.Love comes in all sizes, and the discovery of that love makes an engrossing 144 minutes of film time. I've heard people say these two are "damaged." Really? But aren't we all? And how lovely and whimsical to find another who understands us so well.Lee (Maggie Gyllenhaal) blossoms from a repressed, obsessive, unhappy girl into a self-assured woman all because a strange, obsessive, largely unhappy man sees in her the need to be .... herself ... a submissively strong woman who likes to be spanked, restrained, and ordered around. As long as she knows her submission is understood, she is liberated in the true sense of that term. She becomes the powerful one ... all because she accepts who she is. Acceptance and love. Isn't that what most of us aspire to?I loved the scene where Lee tries to do the impossible: make a cup of coffee for the new boss who casually demands it. A truly submissive person will understand that scene on a very deep level.I'll see this again before it leaves my local theater. And can't wait to buy the DVD when it's available. It's a "feel good" movie with an irresistible twist! :)This movie is not for everyone; but I wish I could say it was. It deals with all the relevant themes of a good, complex love story. It just adds a new level ---- and one that's been around in the shadows for a few decades."
S. Holliday | 04/12/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Secretary is absolutely the best film I have seen in a very long time, and one of the best I have ever seen. I won't spend any time going over the plot because, if you're reading this, chances are you already know it. This is the first Hollywood film I have seen that treats BDSM relationships in a realistic, and (most importantly) non-judgemental manner. Many scenes in this film will certainly ring true for anyone involved in the lifestyle. The acting is, in a word, superb. James Spader turns in his usual high-caliber performance, and Maggie Gyllenhaal is stunning(and beautiful as well!) She conveys more emotion with a single glance than most actresses could in a lengthy monologue. Jeremy Davies also performs quite well in his rather small part. My only quibble with this film is a very minor one: it would have been nice if the story had given a little more background on Mr. Grey. All in all, a top notch film. I will watch it again and again, and I highly recommend it to all open-minded movie fans. Just keep the kids away from the set while you watch it!"
Bizarre and Wonderful. I loved it.
FloozyFlapper1926 | Somewhere in the 20's | 04/16/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For some reason, I never wanted to see this film. The movie poster put me off somewhat. I figured it would be just another artsy sex film, but how I was wrong. Its starts as the story of a young woman emerging from a mental hospital and back into her life with a dysfunctional family that is all too real. Unsure what to do with her life, she applies for a job as a secretary at a law firm. But this is no ordinary office and Lee is no ordinary girl. Edward and Lee begin a strange and turbulent work relationship that later develops into a Dominant/Submissive relationship. As the film progresses, it becomes more bizarre. ... What makes this film so great is Maggie. She is able to lend an innocent quality to Lee that makes her oddly enduring. Yes, she is submissive and a freak by normal standards, but she is also a demure quiet girl. James Spader is good as well in his role as the sadistic boss that oddly falls in love with her throughout the film. I have to say its one of the strangest romances captured on film and the characters are well-drawn and created in a way that makes them likeable in their own ways."Secretary" is a film some people will hate. Well, I loved it. Its strange and its fabulous. If you like really different movies, this is the one to see.I give it two thumps up!"
As Close to Reality as it Gets!
jeanne0704 | Houston, TX United States | 01/09/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As a woman who actually practices the fine art of D/s in my everyday life, I want to applaud the makers of this wonderfully warm film!! I have seen way too many movies that deal with the emotional aspects of submission as being ones that are entirely negative. This film hit the nail on the head when it showed that submissive women find strength in their surrender.
It also let the viewer see that Dominant men aren't monsters but just irregular regular guys trying to co-exist with their hidden desires to control their partners in ways that are beneficial to both. I'm no pro at writing so I hope I'm saying this well.....but simply, if you want to gain some understanding of people who choose this alternative lifestyle and how it changes them for the better, see this movie!!!"