Top positive review
50 people found this helpful
on 17 February 2005
'Secretary' begins by throwing us into the life of Lee, a compulsive self-mutilator who lands herself a job as an eccentric lawyer's secretary after being released from the psychiatric institution. Quite a lot to stomach already, then the story develops into a tale of love at first sight with a seriously sadomasochistic twist, as Lee is immediately drawn to her domineering boss. He in turn seems to share the same feelings but is apparently incapable of forging relationships, therefore the only way they experience their romance is through darkly comical S&M experiences. Morally wrong perhaps but director Steven Shainburg portrays the fetish theme in a surprisingly gentle light allowing the film to continue as a love story in one way or an other.
Whilst 'Secretary' is slightly out there on a proverbial limb, the aim was not to shock but to portray love from a perspective outside of the social norms. On that note it succeeds and while criticisms do exist over the morality of one torture replacing an other, the general tone of the film is surprisingly optimistic and romantic.
Maggie Gyllenhaal shines with a breakthrough role as the submissive Lee with a turn which saw her achieve a Golden Globe nomination. Her energetic performance most certainly deserved more as she played a very challenging role down to an almost perfection.
It was a routine walk in the park for James Spader, almost a veteran on the indie scene. Nevertheless he was still very impressive as Mr. Grey, the obsessive lawyer as he surprisingly manages to force the audience into building up an odd likeness of his character despite all of his odd eccentricities.
Sadomasochism is a tricky subject but 'Secretary' approaches it carefully, avoiding offence and the shock factor. Shainburg has also done a brilliant job in creating these two characters but making them very human by not alienating them. If you have been looking for a rom-com in the vein of 'The Wedding Planner' or even 'The Wedding Singer', then it's likely to be a safe bet not to go near 'Secretary'. However if you are not afraid to experience a much darker romantic comedy with an other twist added onto that then this might just be your thing.