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Secretary (2002)

  Directed by: Steven Shainberg
Written by: Mary Gaitskill, Erin Cressida Wilson
Starring: Jeremy Davies, Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Spader
Links: Secretary on the IMDb, Official site, Buy the Book, Buy on Video, Buy on DVD, Buy the Soundtrack
Genre: Drama

This movie gets: 8.00 (2 ratings) Ranking: Ranked equal 53rd of 187 movies (2 ratings minimum; see full chart)

"A spanking good movie" - a review by mino

Usually, the word ‘sexy’ in the description of a movie is a bad sign. Firstly, the movies that movie studios describe as ‘sexy’ rarely are, unless the sight of a Baldwin brother's flabby naked ass cavorting about the screen is your idea of a good time. ‘Sexiness’ is often confused by Hollywood with ‘nudity’ or ‘explicitness’. Sometimes they can be the same thing: but sometimes they're not.

Secondly, when a movie is promoted as ‘sexy’, that often means that — well, that there's not really that much else to say about it. ‘Sexy’ is usually used as an adjective to describe either third-rate Body of Evidence (1993)-style thrillers, or what are lovingly known in these parts as ‘Saturday-night SBS titflicks’: movies whose only point is to show some flesh to the sort of people who have nothing better to do on Saturday night than stay home and watch them.

Secretary, though, is a genuinely sexy movie, even though it revolves around a particular set of kinks that I have to confess are, in the immortal words of Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997), ‘not my bag, baby’. Maggie Gyllenhaal is Lee Holloway, a shy little poppet who has just been released from an institution after repeatedly cutting and burning herself. She decides to get a job to get her life in order, and ends up working as a secretary at a very very odd legal firm, run by the very very odd E. Edward Grey (James Spader). At first, Lee is a perfectly normal secretary; before long, however, their relationship becomes something very different indeed. The normally retiring Lee begins to come out of her shell a little, and becomes more assertive: almost paradoxically, she expresses this assertiveness in her willingness to become a ‘submissive’ in a series of increasingly daring and increasingly sexual ‘power games’ with Grey.

As Lee evolves, she opens up more to Grey, and simultaneously draws back from her boyfriend, Peter (Jeremy Davies). While the movie might seem to be largely concerned with spanking and bondage, it's actually much more about the incredible change in Lee's attitudes, both to herself and those around her.

Secretary's success hinges largely on the performances of its two lead actors, sharing as they do a massive majority of the available screen time. Fortunately, they don't disappoint: Spader puts in a fantastic performance, and at the risk of sounding like a wanker, Gyllenhaal is absolutely captivating. These two are perfect for the roles, and do an astounding job at making these rather odd characters totally believable.

Secretary manages to be both touching and funny, and is well worth a look. If you get bored, you can always amuse yourself by trying to work out what sort of legal practice has only one lawyer, one secretary and one paralegal, but can afford to operate out of offices that, despite being in an old house, are both deceptively enormous and astoundingly well-decorated.

mino gives this movie 8 out of 10.
Review created on Wed 7 Jan 2004

Movie review statistics

Ratings given without reviews:

Number of reviews: 1
Number of ratings: 2
Average rating: 8.00
Lowest rating: 8 (by em_fiction, mino)
Highest rating: 8 (by em_fiction, mino)
Rating Percentage

Reader comments

  1. Maybe the offices are in a crappy area!

    A comment from Andrew on Wed 07 Jan 2004 09:29 #

  2. "At the risk of sounding like a wanker, Gyllenhaal is absolutely captivating."

    You don't have to write a movie review to sound like a wanker Paul!

    A comment from Andrew on Fri 30 Jan 2004 15:11 #

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