Directed by Steven Shainberg.
Written by Erin Cressida Wilson.
Starring James Spader and Maggie Gyllenhaal.
Release Year: 2002
Review Date: 10/15/02
“Secretary” might not be showing everywhere,
and with good reason:
This flick is some weird shit!
James Spader and Maggie Gyllenhaal star in
this S&M office comedy (now THAT’S a new one) about a relationship
between a lawyer and his secretary that is anything but normal.
This is mostly because the fetishist lawyer (Spader) seems to enjoy
giving his new secretary (Gyllenhaal) a lot of grief and the
pleasure he seems to take out of just looking at her will totally
freak you out.
It is hard to describe the plot of a film
when there really isn’t one—and this is the case with “Secretary.”
I mean, pretty much the whole film is the back-and-forth between
boss and administrative assistant, and man, there are some scenes in
this one that even took me for a loop. This, however, is not to say
that the film is necessarily very good; it’s just that four or five
scenes in the second half of the film are just visually arresting!
I stopped breathing for a couple of them, because I couldn’t believe
that the director was trying to make this thing work.
Spader is so good in this film. He seems to
pick projects for some odd reasons, but here, just his non-verbal
head movements are funny and he is completely believable as this
sicko. He does so much with his eyes in this film that he ought to
win the Best Actor Oscar for his eye movement alone. Gyllenhaal is
good, but her character as written comes right out of the School of
Dysfunctional Families Handbook and her early drug problems shock
you, then disgust you, then leave you baffled because of how they
just disappear. The film’s subplots involving the secretary’s home
life are useless and only further provide evidence that director
Steven Shainberg needed some filler for his two-hour film.
Speaking of which, the film’s biggest
atrocity is its length; it is way too long, and it seems like it is
going to end a couple of times before it actually does. Oh, and the
ending itself? Not too good, either. Shows you what a good editor
“Secretary” is a surprising indie film in
that it’s actually pretty entertaining at points (odd for this year,
one of the weakest quality-wise in the last ten years of indies;
don’t get me started again on “My Big Fat Piece of Fucking Shit”)
and provides a new twist on spanking scenes. Yeah, I said it.
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard