View Full Version : Sleeper Hit For Maggie Gyllenhaal

01-17-2003, 03:00 AM
This S&M-light was kinky enough to titillate but less graphic than porn so as to be more suggestive of the more hard core rubbish. This stylish, off-center movie about a lawyer and his secretary probes more about a quirky lawyer and the relationship than any real deviant sex story. There is a good metamorphosis of Maggie Gyllenhaal into a woman while James Spader again gets to reel off another sleeper hit (reprising a suggestive character from his days of Sex, Lies, and Video fame). This is a delightful, rewarding movie that is off balance enough, sensually different but tasteful, and serious but never dramatically over-mental to probe the nature of employment relationships, love, growing up, and going after something, not giving up.

oscar jubis
04-01-2003, 11:41 AM
SECRETARY opens with Lee(Ms.Gyllenhall) doing office work while wearing a bondage device. Then it flashes back 6 months to her discharge from a mental institution. Voice-over narration leads to a suicide attempt, shot in grainy stock with saturated colors, which resulted in hospitalization. Then Secretary settles down and proceeds to detail Lee's personality and her rehabilitation. She tells us she's been engaging in self-injurious acts since 7th grade.We are introduced to her dysfunctional family, with a few broad strokes.

Lee gets hired by Mr. Grey(James Spader), a tormented lawyer with obsessive/compulsive traits. Secretary concerns primarily the relationship that emerges between Lee and Mr. Grey. I like the way the arc of their relationship was depicted; their behavior towards each other progresses naturally from previous interaction. The film establishes how relationships are often therapeutic in that one develops improved insight and coping skills from what happens when two relate. The viewpoint is quite optimistic, given how the principals have been marked by suffering.

SECRETARY is lighter than it sounds. Ms. Gyllenhaal's Lee is funny and giddy. The filmmakers wink at us by draping a purple hooded cape on Lee for the job interview. Also, there's a "Secretary Wanted" sign surrounded by light bulbs outside the office. But what I found most refreshing is how the characters' need for domination and submission is seen within the context of a whole person, not isolated clinically.

Secretary does have flaws though. You never get the sense Mr. Grey gets nearly enough business to pay for the rent and deluxe furnishings. It feels like a set, not an office. I wondered whether the script originated from a stage play. It's actually based on a short story. A couple of scenes don't work. One in particular has Lee acting surprised to hear Mr Grey say:"The pain inside has to come to the surface. Then you watch it heal. It proves comforting." This is not news to anybody hospitalized for self-abuse. The film fails to incorporate taking medication as part of Lee's post-discharge routine, even if it is to show the character decision not to take them. Some type of brief visual acknowledgement is all I needed. Many in the audience who take anti-depressants would find it easier to identify with Lee, even if their symptoms are much milder.

I think Tabuno's title for this thread is quite appropriate. This is Maggie Gyllenhaal's film, she adds dimensions to the character not found on the script. I learned to spell her name correctly. Least she deserves.