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Secretary

Updated on March 30th, 2019

A young woman, recently released from a mental hospital, gets a job as a secretary to a demanding lawyer, where their employer-employee relationship turns into a sexual, sadomasochistic one.

An emotionally fragile woman recently released from a mental hospital for self mutilation goes to school to gain secretarial skills to gain employment. She has an alcoholic father and a co-dependent mother who are clueless as to who she really is which a tormented soul who really wants to find something with which she can find success. She is a great secretary and finds a job with a unique, old fashioned, but off center in charge boss with a somewhat sadistic sexual proclivity. She grows and evolves and so does he.

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Movie Reviews: ‘Secretary

Movie Review: Newsweek

Before you howl in protest at what sounds like an endorsement of sexual harassment, you must understand that the playfully un-P.C. “Secretary” is anything but a slice of grim realism. Shainberg serves it up as a kind of twisted fairy tale–indeed, when Lee first shows up at Grey’s office in her hooded rain slicker, she looks like Little Purple Riding Hood–that’s delicately balanced between the comedic and the erotic.

Even the art direction reinforces the fantasy: Grey’s dark, plush office is like something out of a Victorian Gothic novel. Shainberg isn’t interested in the clinical aspects of sadomasochism. Rather, he sees this as a romantic comedy in which two terrified, lost souls find liberation in kink. The comic paradox is that Lee finds empowerment through debasement.

In the wrong hands, the conceit could have turned ugly and offensive. But Spader and Gyllenhaal have a hushed, hilarious chemistry that works like a charm. Spader’s character is like a more disturbed, self-loathing version of the seductive voyeur he played in “sex, lies and videotape.” It’s a dazzling comic portrait of a man both excited and terrified of his own lusts. Gyllenhaal transfixes the camera much as she beguiles her saucer-eyed boss. She’s adorable without going cutesy; she has a starmaking rapport with the audience.

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Movie Review: Observer

Secretary

I was sorry when I learned that Michael’s, the well-known children’s hair-cutting salon at Madison Avenue and 90th Street, went out of business recently. But not that sorry. Michael’s was famous for cutting the hair of generations of preppies, allegedly including John F. Kennedy Jr. I say allegedly because I never saw him there. And, God knows, I spent enough of my childhood in the barber’s chair at Michael’s that I’d have run into him if he’d been a regular.

I got my first haircut at Michael’s, and every haircut after that until, at the ripe old age of 16, I finally rebelled. Haircuts in my family were traumatic, psychologically scarring events. The fault lay not with Mr. Michael, as the salon’s owner was called, or with his No. 2 man, Mr. Gay, both of whom gave a competent haircut. The problem was my mother.

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Movie Review: Reel Talk Online

Secretary

Lee Holloway has had her share of problems. Recently released from a mental hospital for a bad affinity for cutting herself, all the twenty-something year old wanted to do was find love–for herself and for another. Then the job of her dreams fell into her lap.

Recently dubbed Oscar nominee Maggie Gyllenhaal stars as Holloway in the 2002 sadomasochist-adoring film Secretary, co-starring James Spader. The wide-eyed, shy young woman takes a job as the demanding Mr. Grey’s (James Spader’s) inexperienced secretary only to find that her new boss likes his secretaries to partake in a little game we’ll call S&M in the office.

Complete with whips, chains, and other toys, Holloway quickly becomes intrigued by the newfound excitement in her life and what she’s come to determine as love for the sadistic Mr. Grey. As quickly as she begins to enjoy the unorthodox rituals at work, it’s just as quickly taken away from her when she’s suddenly fired. By then she’s addicted to her feelings for her boss and is not quite ready to come down from her high.

A quirky little film, an often unnecessary at times, that somehow still entrances audiences in a “what is this about?” kind of way, Secretary shows how one woman stopped at nothing to get her love. But I’m still scratching my head at the whole thing.
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