Secretary - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Secretary Reviews

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Super Reviewer
August 17, 2015
What makes this film stand out as a truly adorable romance is the surprising way that it tackles the spicy kinkiness of its subject as a means for two people to find happiness, while it boasts a great score/soundtrack and Maggie Gyllenhaal shines in a lovely performance.
Super Reviewer
June 22, 2014
Based on a short story, written by Mary Gaitskill, "Secretary" tells the story of a mousy young woman who wants to change her life after a lifetime of cutting and self-hatred. Enter her boss (Spader) who is happy to help her change her ways by taking advantage of her sexually, culminating in a sadomasochistic relationship. The film is a test for the audience, to see if you believe it's a love story between two people who want a sub/dom relationship pertaining to a romantic interest that incorporates mutual respect and love, or a story about a man dominating a woman. The former would be a complex and often accepted story, since Gyllenhaal's character has to persuade her paramour that that is indeed what she wants, and that public attention doesn't limit her affection. It's rather sweet in places, but very dark in others, earnest in its depiction of these kinds of sexual fantasies and their participants. It's a bold endeavor for director Shainberg, one that pays off inevitably.
Super Reviewer
January 5, 2013
Quite a strange quirky film with a mix of drama and comedy. It won't be for everyone's taste but it does have some funny and weird moments in equal measure.
Super Reviewer
June 14, 2006
You can't praise this very unusual movie about an odd employer/employee relationship enough for blowing the dust off the general images of what love and sex have to look like. It is taking its characters and their desires seriously (while doing so with a good sense of humor), never judges or ridicules. That's so refreshing, charming and, yes, sexy, that you can't help but cheer for the unusual couple. Great acting, writing and direction make this an unforgettable experience. Certainly not a film for everyone, with its naughtiness and bluntness, but as always the conservative minds miss out the most anyway. Everyone else should be as fascinated and entertained by this as I was.
Super Reviewer
October 18, 2006
A progressive story from self harm to S&M, quite a strange view on the subject and the style in which it presents itself and yet something makes this film an intriguing watch.

Maggie Gyllenhaal is once again comfortable with her body in this film, which must make awkward viewing to Brother Jake at times.
Super Reviewer
February 16, 2010
everyone praises actors, directors whenever a good movie is made, but me, i praise the script-writer. i like to listen into the dialogues and discover some hidden emotions behind the words. ERIN CRESSIDA WILSON is the writer for this picture, and she made it happen. i liked her choices of words so well that i had to check into imdb to search for the genuis behind those words.

briefly the story is about a female masochist who meets a male sadist, and they engage in some sort of complicit sex-games without actual consummation until the man decides to call a stop before the further emotional involvement. of course, the story is NOT that simple. that is the insensitive way to generalize the movie.

how about the sensitive way? an emotionally desolated woman walks out of asylum and all she finds is a mediocre home which doesn't offer her any light or hope, and she temporally dissolves all these problems by cutting herself just to feel alive. she's inconfident, un-self-assured, socially inadequate, escorted by mother and sister. her efficient typing ability is the only thing she truly takes pride in and her biggest aspiration in life is to become a secretary, a stepping stone for her indepedence.

then she meets an eccentric lawyer who has an odd perfectionist insistance to red-mark on anything! he has issues with women because of some hidden un-speakable irreconciled mental trauma inside him. he spots something in her that he could instinctually recognize and resonate. he coaxes her into not cutting herself by transferring her drive for self-multilation into a titilating game of sadomasochistic sexual foreplay without actual fonication. perhaps it is more positive to get spanked on the rectrum than use a knife to cut yourself. he just gratifies her need and her want to be punished! the only actual physical touch over there is the woman's hand moving slowly just to touch the man's fingers. somehow severely repressed people need extreme ways to relent their streams of emotions or lust.

if you see chloe, the atom egoyan movie, the scriptor is also erin cressida wilson, and that is a story about a call-girl looking for love in the most un-usual circumstance through cheating and point is erin cressida wilson writes stories of unusual romances on jaded, desperate, lonely people who look for love in various far-from-commonplace ways (wrong places by normal standards) because they're deprived of the capacity to obtain or feel love in the normal ways as the obstacles of their past bind them from experiencing usual empathy available to all. in two simple words: WEIRDO LOVE. but in this kind of romances, you find the most sincere sort of love since it transcends your commonplace, humdrum perceptions of love. those people are just like little fishes confined in a tiny plastic bag made of their emotional difficulties, but those little fishes just gotta smash their heads off to make a hole and escape out of the microcosmos of their little plastic bag to seek love and make love happening even at the end, the little fishes might die of drought. but they just have to love! isn't it romantic? (ok, that may be me who thinks in that way. maybe i'm twisted as well.)

here's some of the best dialogues from ERIN CRESSIDA WILSON:

on suffering:
"In one way or another I've always suffered. I didn't know why exactly. But I do know that I'm not so scared of suffering now. I feel more than I've ever felt and I've found someone to feel with. To play with. To love in a way that feels right for me. I hope he knows that I can see that he suffers too. And that I want to love him. "

on self-multilation:
"Is it that sometimes the pain inside has to come to the surface, and when you see evidence of the pain inside you finally know you're really here? Then, when you watch the wound heal, it's comforting... isn't it? "
Super Reviewer
May 18, 2011
Secretary is about a woman that just got out of mental hospital. She gets a job as secretary. At first her relationship with her boss goes by the boss and worker relationship but over time it turns in to a romantic relationship that is not typical in a working place.
Good acting
Good plot
It really shows what mental illness does to you and what a not normal working relationship looks like,
It was funny in a way. I think in is one of better films of the 2000's
If you want a film that in not in the norm of films or film that taking a look into mental illness you should give this a try.
Super Reviewer
August 31, 2007
Yuck, why does Maggie Gyllenhaal talk in such a weird voice the entire time?
Super Reviewer
½ May 16, 2007
My "guilty sin" movie. I have watched it many times and cannot get enough of it. Lee Holloway and E. Edward Grey are perfect for each other. To see this kind of romance film out there makes me very happy indeed.
Super Reviewer
June 19, 2010
Holy heck. Never has a movie with so little actual sex been so erotic. Maggie Gyllenhaal is perfect in her first starring role. She infuses Lee with a fragile strength - strength that, most people don't realize, needs to exist in a true Dominant/submissive relationship. It takes much power and control on the submissive's part to fully submit, as shown in the climax, which leads to a blissfully romantic denouement.

For some reason, I don't find James Spader attractive. I think it's because he looks like Mayor Adam West from "Family Guy."
Super Reviewer
½ May 27, 2008
I didn't know what to expect from this one. I watched it with an open mind, but really couldn't help but be disappointed. Spader and Gyllenhaal are great, but the movie drags on with little going for it. Odd and hard to get into to are probably the best ways to describe this one. Not quite softcore porn, not quite dark comedy.
Super Reviewer
December 7, 2008
this is a very loose adaptation of mary gaitskill's story, but the liberties taken with the plot fit with her style. well acted. relationships built on bdsm can be strangely sweet....the end was conventional hollywood style.
Super Reviewer
½ February 11, 2007
I told my friend I thought this was cute and he called me weird but I am totally right. If you automatically equate sexual deviation to perversion or something that deserves unease/consternation, then obviously you won't enjoy this movie. It's unapologetic in its portrayal of S/M fetishism and I'm pretty sure that's not going to change many minds. What's most fascinating about the sexual backbone of the plot is that, despite how it so clearly influences the way the characters act and the choices they make, it is still reinforcing a love story at heart. Two people in need completing themselves with each other? That's the stuff Hollywood loves - this is just a darkly comic, uniquely sexy treatment of the material.
Super Reviewer
½ April 12, 2008
It's not easy to find original and provocative stories in present day cinema (especially in north-american cinema). The studios and the producers prefer to be on a safe ground and they spend their money in boring action movies, or in clumsy comedies (does the audience really want that?? I guess they do). But thanks God there're some independent creators that keep searching for new things. Steven Shainberg seems to be one of those creators: he's adapted to the big screen a short story by Mary Gaitskill which tells the life story of Lee Halloway (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a twenty-something girl with serious emotional disorders who likes to injure herself. She goes and applies for a job as a secretary at a lawyer's office owned by Edward Grey (James Spader). Mr. Grey is and eccentric, sadistic, and angry son of a bitch, who'll begin humiliating and mistreating Lee since the very first day... Now this would be a nice starting point for a labour-and-sex-abuse movie, just if the character performed by Mrs. Gyllenhall wouldn't enjoy all of those abuses and humiliations.

Shainberg has created a whole series of weird characters. Each and every one of the individuals we see in "Secretary" are a little bit touched and quite unhappy. Although we can consider "Secretary" as a comedy (a black humor comedy), thre're plenty of disliking sequences which Shainberg perfectly mixes with funny and crazy situations. And that's not easy to achieve: making a comedy out of people's disorders and life troubles may result in an unbalanced film: now you're laughing, and the second after you're terrified. But that doesn't happen in "Secretary", because even the toughest passages in the movie contain sort of a pathetic and freaky atmosphere that will prevent us from feeling sad about the characters.

As for the actors, the highly expressive face of Maggie Gyllenhaal contrasts with unexpressive James Spader. They're the absolute starrings in "Secretary", and they do it just great: Mrs. Gyllenhaal proves that she's a great actress and James Spader finally appears on a decent movie years and years after of his best achievement: Sex, Lies, And Video-tapes. Jeremy Davies makes a good job as Lee's border-line boyfriend, and veteran Lesley Ann Warren perfectly plays Lee's depressive and submissive mother.

To sum up. Not a film for everyone but if your interested in something a little different than usual then this a film worth checking out.
Super Reviewer
April 7, 2008
"The story of a demanding boss and the woman who loves his demands."
Super Reviewer
½ March 30, 2008
Lee (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is getting back to a normal life after being released from a mental hospital. She finds a job as a secretary to Mr. Grey (James Spader).

The movie turns out to be a love story -- albeit a somewhat unusual one. It is quite amazing to see Lee develop from an insecure girl to a woman who knows what she wants and is willing to fight for it.
Super Reviewer
March 19, 2007
Very naughty little gem. Hate that James Spader though!
Super Reviewer
September 7, 2007
This is an excellent movie. It's so utterly twisted, but fantastic. Everyone should see this movie.
Super Reviewer
August 31, 2007
It's dark, and James Spader is on fire. This kind of love isn't usually depicted on the big sccreen. I love it!
Super Reviewer
July 16, 2007
This is a love story...a dark and twisted love story by some accounts, but a love story nonetheless. If you are thinking when I say this that it is a "chick flick" or a "skin flick" look elsewhere because it is neither. This is the first movie I have seen that has hit the mainstream that has explored the true meaning behind an S&M relationship...that being one of 100% trust and honesty. Being allowed to let your guard down, open yourself wide, and feel no shame inside the safety of a relationship where someone really understands you and loves you for who you are. To say that this is a romantic comedy would be true, but also unjust because it is so much more than that. A woman who has been misunderstood her whole life meets a man who has also been misunderstood and the only way he has survived is by hiding that side of himself from all save a few...and they have abandoned him...until now. You decide...are they poison for one another or a panacea? I vote the latter. I won't go much further here so as not to be a spoiler, but watch, and squirm, and feel uncomfortable...and then ask yourself, "why does this make me uncomfortable?" If you want a delicious Noir Love Story you have found it in this magnificent film.
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