8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars absolutely delightful film
This film could have been third class perverted semi-porn movie. But the director Steven Shainber did great job in turning a bit perverted material-sadism and masochism-into absolutely funny and cute love story. Although the movie deals with somewhat irregular sexual issues, it is never erotic or disgusting. The reason, I suppose, is truthfulness and purity of the...
Published on June 6 2003 by Yun Jung Kim
3.0 out of 5 stars "Pretty Woman" This is Not
Romantic comedies are mostly a collection of tired and predictable cliches nowadays, presenting stereotyped characters in unsurprising situations. Fortunately, sometimes appears a movie that tries to add something new and original to this limited genre, offering innovative perspectives. "Secretary" is one of those rare films, which actually dares to bring a...
Published on April 3 2004 by gonn1000
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars absolutely delightful film,
This film could have been third class perverted semi-porn movie. But the director Steven Shainber did great job in turning a bit perverted material-sadism and masochism-into absolutely funny and cute love story. Although the movie deals with somewhat irregular sexual issues, it is never erotic or disgusting. The reason, I suppose, is truthfulness and purity of the characters.
Maggie Gyllenhaal(Lee) did stunning work in playing a very pure, yet unconventional, female secretary. Lee looks somewhat dumb and weak to her desire, but at least she is uncontaminated by the outside world and true to her feelings. The way she tries to seduce James Spader is quite adorable.
James Spader also proved that he is a great actor. Mr. Gray (Spader) is slightly deviated from the normal person, but still he is greatly attractive man. How he heals the wounds of Lee and how he resists her seduction induces laughter from the audiences.
This film is never typical and never normal, yet it shows the true feelings of the human beings. This film depicts physical attraction, yet it show what real love is.
I absolutely recommend this film to everybody and I guarantee that anyone who sees this film will like it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sexy, sweet, funny, twisted (in a good way),
I saw this film not knowing anything about it, and that element of surprize helped entirely because if you're looking for a film that's about gritty hardcore s+m, this isn't it. But if you're looking for one with heart, humor, and beautiful-strangeness, then this is a wonderful movie to see. I loved the ending, it is beautiful and unforgettably visual. It's my favourite James Spader film to date, I think it fits him perfectly. And Maggie Gyllenhaal shows she is a talented, brave actress who's not afraid of taking an unusual role. The camera work is beautiful, suspenseful, dramatic, sensual... oh i can't say enough good things about this film, there is not another like it!
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pleasure and Pain,
Sexuality has forever played a tremendous role in our storytelling. In recent years, those roles and themes have become more visible, controversial and erotic. Where censorship strives to dismiss controversy, "Secretary" embraces it and offers us an unforgetable tour of the taboo.
"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!
5.0 out of 5 stars This movie is fantastic...kinky, quirky and fun...,
By A Customer
As a feminist, the themes presented in this film were not my cup of tea...so I feel kind of awkward and embarrassed saying that I really enjoyed SECRETARY. I won't go into detail about plot and such, because it has all been said in previous reviews, but I will share some of my personal opinions.
This movie is very disturbing, but the two leading players are fascinating to watch. I am a huge fan of James Spader, and he just shines in these kind of "twisted" roles. He is definitely one of the world's greatest actors! And Maggie is absolutely fantastic as well! She is obviously a very talented actress with a lot of guts. I give her a lot of credit for taking a role that many women wouldn't touch. The only real qualm I have with this film is that it could have gone into a little more detail about Mr. Grey's past and why he behaves the way he does. It didn't provide enough information about his character's previous exploits.
Another thing about this film that makes it unique is the way that it is able to be flat-out sexy without a lot of actual sex. The tensions between the two characters are so complex and I was always wondering what they would be feeling (and doing!) next. Seriously, the sexual tension in several of the scenes is so thick that you can cut it with a knife (this is especially true with the spanking scene). And you just gotta love those red Sharpies! Also, the musical score is terrific and highly seductive.
Overall, this is a great film and it was interesting to see a different kind of love lifestyle (although it is one that I would never pursue myself)! The ending is touching and it was good to see how these two people finally came together and shared some touching, gentle moments. I am not a big fan of nudity in movies, but the scenes in this film were done in an artistic, respectful and beautiful way.
I have watched this movie several times already, but nothing compares to the experience of seeing it for the very first time. Initially, I found this film to be shocking and even mildly disgusting. After thinking about it for a little while, however, I grew to realize what a fine independent picture SECRETARY is...and now I love it! I highly recommend this film, but not for individuals who are closed-minded about this kind of subject matter. For mature, open-minded viewers, this movie is a must!
5.0 out of 5 stars Sinemaerotica,
A quirksome little film focusing on the sublimated dominance / submission dynamic between the secretary and her boss. A girl fresh out of college takes on a job at an attorney's office where the two work out their latent sado-masochistic tendencies upon each other, and what may actually occur if certain business policies were not enforced. It speaks to the fact that indulgence does indeed occur in office buildings frequently, for they are caves of the humanimal beast of the field after all, and nature will out no matter the environment.
Here, it all starts with a typo - typo turns into 'misbehavior', and eventually misbehavior turns into punishment - a literal spanking ponderously administered which thereby evolves into all manner of colloquial humiliation and command mutually indulged, to the point where she would not even eat if it were not with his permission - and she was perfect - indeed, herself becoming her own little "Miss Behavior", at times purposefully mis-spelling a word, just to enjoy her grateful punishment at the hands of her domineering Master. It becomes so much a part of her sexuality, as she derived her E.C.I. with that first spanking, and reaches climax every time.
But one day, the pleasures cease as abruptly as they began, to her profound disappointment, and she begs for her sweet punishments again. She attempts all of the usually methods of seduction - from gifts to cards to flowers, to a plunging neckline, but to no avail. Until finally, she realizes that she must do something 'naughty' to attract his attention, subsequently a large worm in his mail, to which he draws a thick red line around it to mark her error, as he had been doing prior all along, like the authority figure she craves. This causes a reaction that was most unexpected indeed, as he satisfies himself with just the view of her bent over with her skirt hiked up and pantyhose pulled down. Finally, she is fired because he does not fully comprehend the sub/dom dynamic himself, and henceforth abruptly fires her, leaving her isolated from the one she loves, despite the amorous attentions she derives from some spineless loser she had been seeing, whom she was about to actually marry, until her desperate passion eventually bade her to return to the office again at the last moment, where she proclaims her love for him. At first he seeks to remove her, but she remains adamant so he finally issues a command, that she remain at the table with her hands flat thereupon where he leaves her for three days during which she is "counseled" by friends and even clergy to cease, yet her love-filled determination bids her onwards. He finally releases her from her long-suffering, and carries her to a bathtub where he bathes her and loves her until she becomes his wife.
So here we have seen the subconscious covert, transforming to overt expressions made with artistic license to cinematically exemplify the underlying relationship between boss and secretary, sexually subjectified, although such a scenario does carry strains of actuality, and is feasible after all, as relative to the D/s Lifestyle, and is portrayed quite well with the psychological fetish play.
The film begins rather innocuously, becoming more and more interesting, building to a crescendo in the middle, drops off in disappointment, then gradually builds up again unto a most pleasing ending. Her infatuation and subsequent love is impressive overall, and they are both rewarded in the end.
5.0 out of 5 stars Odd yet Wonderful,
I shied away from seeing this movie after I read a description of what it was about. Then I read some rave reviews and overcame my initial trepidation. I know that James Spader, one of my favorite actors, often chooses odd vehicles to showcase his talents, so I decided to give the movie a chance.
I am glad that I did because it was well worth viewing, in my opinion. Strange? yes. Disturbing? yes. Pornographic? no. It is a funny and oddly tender movie...a different kind of love story. But because it is different, is it wrong? I don't think so.
There is a lot of emotional pain in this movie, shown brilliantly by Maggie Gyllenhaal's character, Lee (just out of a mental hospital), who goes to work for the emotionally closed-off lawyer, E. Edward Grey (Spader), a man with many fetishes, obviously an odd duck. Before long, Lee has become the object of one of these fetishes...and she finds herself excited more than she has ever been.
These odd and needy characters are presented as sympathetic and we come to care about them as the movie unfolds. They establish a slowly built, fragile relationship that we may not understand, but the filmmaker does, and he portrays it in a sensitive and caring manner.
3.0 out of 5 stars "Pretty Woman" This is Not,
Romantic comedies are mostly a collection of tired and predictable cliches nowadays, presenting stereotyped characters in unsurprising situations. Fortunately, sometimes appears a movie that tries to add something new and original to this limited genre, offering innovative perspectives. "Secretary" is one of those rare films, which actually dares to bring a breath of fresh air and add a couple of different concepts. Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader (both perfect in their roles)star as the offbeat and twisted couple who shares a weird connection, going beyond the typical and distant boss/ employee relationship. Steven Shainberg`s directing debut is an interesting and compelling indie cinematic experience, one that wisely combines dark humour, S&M, romance, dramatic tension and also works as an intriguing character study. However, the ending is a bit disappointing, since it presents a somewhat standard and expected resolution, similar to the romantic comedies it tries to satirize. Still, "Secretary" is innovative enough for the most part, making for a solid and recommended effort.
A peculiar and convincing film.
4.0 out of 5 stars quirky,strangely [appealing],and ultimately winning,
Secretary is not your average romantic comedy to say the least.But that's what makes it so refreshing.It actually shows us that the sweetest love can blossom from people that you would deem "wierd" in everyday life.And that's what I think this film accomplishes the very best-taking "wierd" people that in the cinematic world (and unfortunately in the real one too)are either ignored, or made fun of, and it fleshes them into real people.Real people that you can like,admire,and respect.It shows us that despite their "alternative" lifestyles, they are people not much different from your average joe.I walked away from this film with admiration for how sensitively the subject of s&m was handled.Usually, it's a great opportunity for ridicule, but here, the characters were CHARACTERS, and not caricatures.You walk away from this film feeling warm, and delighted, not uncomfortable like you may assume.
The pacing is perfect, and Maggie Gyllenhaal's performance was simply excellent and totally transforming.A truly magical role that lit up the screen, I truly felt she was this girl.James Spader also worked well as Gyllenhaal's crazed,neurotic boss.
If you don't mind films that are a little strange, then check out Secretary.Not only does it have great performances, and and undeniably orginal concept,it successfully pulls you into an entirely different world-and you stay there 'till the end.
4.0 out of 5 stars I'd Like That Coffee with a Spanking, Please,
"Secretary" is a deliciously off-beat dramedy about an emotionally disturbed young girl (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who gets a job as a you know what for an attorney with his own set of personal problems (James Spader). Soon, she's doing more than typing for him, and he's helping her come out of her reclusive shell.
This film on paper sounds almost exactly like "The Piano." A young woman is given the choice between a conventional relationship and one that superficially might seem perverse, and opts for the perverse one. In both films, what no-one in the heroine's sphere understands is that the man she's involved with is appealing because he's the only one who seems to understand what she needs.
"Secretary" is not as sombre as "The Piano," however, though it's not as rowdy as the premise might lead you to believe. It's actually a quite substantive film and only occasionally did I think it faltered somewhat in telling its story (particularly toward the end, when Lee embarks upon her hunger strike). Ironically, in offering herself up for submissive humiliation from her boss, Lee finds the strength she needs to face her own demons and forges a confidence she's never before had.
Gyllenhall is spectacular, and gives one of those performances that should put her on the map as a serious actress, if anyone is paying attention. Spader is pretty good too, but he's upstaged by Gyllenhaal, who owns this movie.
4.0 out of 5 stars Peculiar black comedy with a fresh approach...,
This is a peculiar black comedy about a subject matter that has been approached in cinema before, but not in such an open and healthy manner. Sadism and masochism are subjects usually left for films about serial killers, sociopaths or the underworld of freaks. In cinema, at least, this topic, and the issues it raises about human sexuality, human suffering and the notion of power and dominance, has been for the most part, taboo, and it is a step in the right direction for the industry to present it in such a fresh, open and humorous way.
Lee (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is a young woman with a few issues about herself and her family. The film opens with her leaving an institution, and her therapist wishing her well in the outside world. We come to see that Lee uses pain as a coping mechanism - burning and cutting herself when life becomes too difficult. She learns some office skills at the community college and lands a job at a one-man law firm. Edward Grey (James Spader) is not what one would say is your 'normal' employer. When we first meet him in the interview scene, one gets the immediate impression that this man has a few issues of his own. As the story begins to unfold, however, one can see that these two unique individuals just might have something in common. This becomes all too apparent in the scene where he 'punishes' her for making too many typos in her letters. Personally, I didn't know whether to be shocked or laugh during this scene, and ended up quite stunned and laughing at the same time. It would have been extremely difficult to pull off this particular scene without losing its underlying power, as it demands both comedy and depth, but Spader and Gyllenhaal made it real, funny and powerful in every sense.
~ Secretary~ is to a large extent a coming of age film. Here is a young, obviously intelligent and sensitive woman, discovering aspects about herself that are not necessarily 'normal' to our middle-of-the-road sensibilities. She meets someone who makes her aware about herself, and at the same time, she makes him aware that love can exist and be expressed without feeling guilt. This is a love story though a kind of love story one does not hear about very often. `Secretary~ is a funny, odd and entertaining film.
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Secretary [Import] by Steven Shainberg (DVD - 2008)