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Secretary 2002


Lee has returned from institutional care after self-harming. She takes a job as a secretary with a dominant and demanding lawyer and their employer/employee relationship gradually develops into a sexual, sadomasochistic one.

James Spader, Maggie Gyllenhaal
1 hour, 46 minutes

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Product Details

Genres Drama, Romance, Comedy
Director Steven Shainberg
Starring James Spader, Maggie Gyllenhaal
Supporting actors Jeremy Davies, Lesley Ann Warren, Stephen McHattie, Patrick Bauchau, Jessica Tuck, Osgood Perkins, Amy Locane, Mary Joy, Michael Mantell, Lily Knight, Sabrina Grdevich, Lacey Kohl, Julene Renee, Lauren Cohn, Ezra Buzzington, Kyle Colerider-Krugh, Steven Fierberg, Herbert Russell
Studio Palisades Tartan
BBFC rating Suitable for 18 years and over
Captions and subtitles English Details
Purchase rights Stream instantly Details
Format Amazon Video (streaming online video)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
'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.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Lee Holloway (Maggie Gyllenhaal)is a shy, disturbed girl given to self-harm. She takes a job as secretary to eccentric lawyer Edward Grey (James Spader),and finds herself blossoming as their strange relationship develops. Spader encourages her to give up her habit of self-mutilation, and she grows happier and more confident. She even acquires a pleasant but slightly wet boyfriend, but when Spader sees them flirting together at the launderette (launderettes seem to be much more glamorous in America) he is clearly consumed by jealousy, and then Lee makes one spelling mistake too many, which leads to that now-famous and very sexy spanking scene. Lee clearly relishes their kinky relationship, but things start to go wrong when Edward,alarmed by her intensity, backs off, and to her disgust, starts treating her like "just a regular old secretary". Meanwhile nice but slightly wet boyfriend wants to marry her, but can she settle for a nice, safe unexciting marriage rather than romance and passion? No, fortunately she can't, and she sets out to get her man come what may. The film is wonderfully sexy and funny, Gyllenhaal and Spader are both terrific, there is an excellent supporting cast and the film has a terrific ending. What more could you want?
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Format: DVD
SECRETARY was not quite what I expected - and it was so much better. Fed up being disappointed over and over again by films deemed to be ‘a masterpiece’ or ‘unmissable’, it felt really great to be truly surprised by a movie, and for me this is a film that I already treasure having discovered. It might not be to everyone’s liking - and a couple of scenes clearly made very uncomfortable viewing to many in the audience (myself included), but in the end I felt it to be one of the most completely satisfying cinematic experiences I can think of, a film I was left thinking about, wanted to talk about, and wanted to see again. The film’s poster (especially UK) relies mostly on selling the prospect of some spicy sexy spanking, but this does not do the film justice. It is a highly erotic film, but its eroticism is not best defined by one rather perturbing spanking scene. Sexy as it ends up, that scene is less impressive in its sexual temperature than a number of wonderful conversation scenes between Lee Holloway (MAGGIE GYLLENHAAL) and E. Edward Grey (JAMES SPADER). Spader is no stranger to playing sexually dysfunctional leads, but this part is much more complex and intricate his good work in SEX, LIES and VIDEOTAPE, or CRASH. The character would have been ruined with over-playing, but Spader, certainly more courageous and seemingly less vain than many actors of his stature, delivers the role perfectly. As for relative newcomer Maggie Gyllenhaal, she generates a performance that is simply sublime it its emotional intricacy and physical detail. The role is at times touching, heartbreaking, mischievously funny and yes, very erotic. Screen acting simply does not come any better than this.Read more ›
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Format: DVD
On reading some of the reviews of this fabulous film I began to dispare that others had seen an entirely different movie!
Then I reached 'Gerard Butler Fanatic's' contribution and balance was restored.

Yes this film features control, humiliation and punishment. However, if you had been paying attention to more than the actual acts committed (not that risque really) you would have noticed the painfully shy charaters of both Grey and Holloway and how the control and attention of another allowed Holloway to blossom into someone equally capable of demanding (in a rather extreme way) a satisfying relationship from another.
In the end it is the isolated and shy Grey that needs the extra push to grasp this chance of a relationship.

All you have to do is see the challenge in Holloway's eyes as she submits another typing error for inspection to realise that this is an example of a mutually satisfying and enjoyable relationship, not the torture of a weak character by the strong.

I read somewhere that in S&M relationships, it is the submissive participant that is in control. This movie is humourous and entertaining proof. Excellent.
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