CAST: James Spader, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jeremy Davies, Lesley Ann Warren, Patrick Bauchau, Stephen McHattie, Oz Perkins, Jessica Tuck, Amy Locane, Mary Joy

DIRECTOR: Steven Shainberg

In this egalitarian age, would any woman allow her boss to spank her for making typos? She would if she's a self-mutilating misfit recently released from a mental institution and her sadistic employer is ever so much more intriguing than the puppy-like simp she's been bedding down with of late. What's more, she would dutifully submit to an astonishing variety of emotional and psychosexual humiliations, never asking for so much as a coffee break. So the story--adapted by Erin Cressida Wilson from a novella by Mary Gaitskill--goes in this season's most perverse, hilarious, upside-down romantic comedy.

Doris Day and Rock Hudson never had it so happy, not even in "Pillow Talk." They just didn't know the rules of the hanky-spanky game played so splendidly by James Spader, in his best turn since "sex, lies, and videotape," and Maggie Gyllenhall, a thorough delight in this breakthrough role. So what could possibly go wrong in their sado-masochistic paradise? Here's what could go wrong--the bully boss could suddenly give his secretary the sack, leaving her no choice but to marry the boy bore. How sick!

Not to fret. Trust talented director Steven Shainberg to end this bizarre, crazily endearing tale on a happy note. Unless you are totally turned off by the notion that some people spend their time looking for love in all the weird places, I think "Secretary" will give you a spanking good time.