Dir: Steven Shainberg
Star: James Spader, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jeremy Davies, Lesley Ann Warren, Stephen McHattie
Cert / Year: 18 - R / 2002
Format: DVD R2

Lee Holloway has just been released from a mental institution where she was being treated for her self-harming. Timid and shy she gets a job as a secretary for a rather strange lawyer E. Edward Grey and vows to do the best job she can. Unfortunately she makes a few mistakes and Grey is forced to punish her with the rather unconventional method of giving her a darn good spanking. Whilst most people would run to the next nearest lawyer and sue for harassment Lee actually enjoys it, and so begins a bizarre relationship. Is this relationship healthy for either party, and just where will it end?

You know from the opening moments of this film that this is no conventional movie. Watching a secretary go about her job restrained with some sort of S&M yoke, manages to be sexy and very kinky. It is a shock but one that is explained in the following scenes as they go back to describe how it came to pass. It certainly is a fine way to give the audience a clue as to what to expect but maybe it is unnecessary as it lessens the films impact later on. But whatever you make of the opening you will be sure that you are not in line for a standard love story.

Yes that's right this is a love story, all be it one that shows a level of originality and daring that blows apart the insipid garbage that usually clutters up this genre. In an age where romance is either yet another rags to riches bore fest staring the talent less likes of Jennifer Lopez or a decidedly unfunny Richard Curtis \ Hugh Grant spineless fopathon this is a brilliant change of direction. You see this is definitely a love story all be it one with lashings of sadomasochism.

It would have been so easy for this film to have degenerated in either farce of a perv fest yet it skillfully manages to avoid either. This is a film which portrays without bias or judgment a healthy S&M relationship, and while we may not understand it or condone it the film refuses to ridicule it. This isn't a film about stereotypes such as gimp suits and rubber bondage gear this is a film about a women who enjoys the humiliation and pain and a man who feels the need to express his domination (which he secretly fears the extent of ). Steven Shainberg puts it best when he said that people expected the couple to get "better" at the end of the film yet this film refuses to do this. Daring stuff and it makes for an excellently thought provoking finale.

This is a film about only two people and for it to work you would need to get the right two people to play the roles. James Spader is fast becoming typecast as the king of perversion. Whether it is a guy with a video obsession or a mutilation fixation if you want alternative sexual practices then he is your man. He delivers a weird and creepy off beat performance that really captures the reality this sort of character and this is probably one of his strongest performances. It is made even better by the inner turmoil the script provides for him, as he is scared of his fantasies and just where they will take him. Playing against him is the very talented new comer Maggie Gyllenhaal. This is a film that must surely launch her career (after a start with her brother Jake in Donnie Darko) she is simply superb. She matches James Spader that is no easy task and provides a character that grows in confidence throughout the film so that by the end of movie although she is a masochist she is actually in control. It is a talented display from two excellent actors and one that generates some fine chemistry.

Secretary is a one of the best romance films to come out for years. It is wildly daring and outstandingly sexy. Steven Shainberg has done a brilliant job delivering such a finely balanced and emotional movie. Ok so the subject matter is very racy and maybe be too much for the more conservative but it is film that promotes understanding and tolerance like few others. Add to this some dark humor and you have a really thought provoking winner of a film. So go and watch the movie now or Iíll have to spank the lot of you.


The story of a demanding boss and the woman who loves his demands.

Assume the position.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Picture 1.77:1 Anamorphic Good Picture quality.
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 Clear but not exciting.
Features Steven Shainberg Commentary
Cast and directer interviews with Maggie Gyllenhaal appearing to be on speed.
Kaking of featurette which is just bits of the interviews.
Verdict Good transfer and some very interesting extras, not a bad package at all.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Reviewed by Glitz Back Top Home