Après quelques années dinternement dans un hôpital psychiatrique, la jeune Lee Holloway cherche un emploi. Même si elle rêve toujours dorchidées roses et de dauphins, elle naurait jamais cru que ses pulsions sadomasochistes seraient son atout principal pour convaincre M. Grey, un avocat, de lengager. Comment alors éviter que le jeu naille trop loin ?
Si Steven Shainberg est habile à une chose, cest bien à faire naître le malaise. En filmant cette Secretary comme une série B romantique ordinaire, mais en y injectant une bonne dose de déviance, il crée un décalage fort original et dérangeant. James Spader et Maggie Gyllenhaal, dont le jeu frôle la folie, sont les interprètes convaincants de cette fable sadomasochiste qui révèle les liens secrets entre amour, sexe et pouvoir. La fin, un peu facile, aurait sans doute pu être plus audacieuse pour rester dans le ton du film. Reste que Secretary ose regarder, avec beaucoup de franchise et dhumour, derrière la porte de la sexualité humaine. --Helen Faradji
"Secretary" forces us to look outside of the box - and see through the eyes of Lee Holloway (Maggie Gyllenhaal). Lee is of a unique breed, who gets pleasure from pain and finds security out of being submissive. Lee returns home for her sister's wedding after having spent time in a mental patient facility. We are immediately find out she is a cutter and inflicts wounds of all sorts for a sense of relief. Determined to not spend all her time at home with her dysfunctional family, she gets a job working as a secretary in a law office for E. Edward Grey (James Spader). Grey is an abrasive anal-retentive man who apparently runs through secretaries every few months or so. We soon witness his growing infactuations with Lee and through his mood swings and psuedo-violent behaviors, a strange sort of romance develops between them. He begins to abuse her and as these habits become more severe, she looks for more ways to receive abuse. Lee must then balance her two seperate lives, living with her family/exploring a relationship with a childhood boyfriend and the taboo S&M relationship she carries with her employer. Both worlds,of course, interfere with each other, ultimately ending with a final confrontation and a surprise ending.
Maggie Gyllenhaal has proven herself to be a superb actress. Her character seems so real in all her actions - there is nothing campy about her subtle nature and her excitement's crescendos. Though her role is small in this feature, Leslie Ann Warren lends her usual charismatic prescence as Lee's over protective suburban mother. James Spader is surprisingly cold and calculated in all of his antics. Each expression on his face becomes immaculately complex, as to which we must question what is going through his head as he spanks his "helpless" employee leaning over his desk.
One must remember that this movie relys on exposing the dark side of sexuality. Full female nudity, masturbation and sex is blunty displayed in a few scenes. What makes this art instead of smut is the underlying emotional states of the characters. One can only hope to find some understanding of their psychology and desires. Because of how controversial the subject matter is, this movie is not for everyone. And I think that might be a reason I love it so much!