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SECRETARY

A stuffy lawyer performs some surprisingly sick tricks while playing office with his latest hire.


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

"It's an inky-black comedy with a subject matter--the 9-to-5 sadomasochistic relationship that develops between a small-town lawyer and his mentally disturbed underling--that virtually screams unwatchable, perverted weirdness. Yet, against all odds, director Steven Shainberg has managed to craft an oddly compassionate--and often very funny--tale of an emotionally symbiotic affair...In the title role, Gyllenhaal morphs from a mousy typist in Annie Hall garb into a kinky office minx, employing pitch-perfect comedic timing and a devastating smile." -- Megan Turner, The New York Post

"'Secretary,' a small groundbreaking comedy, is a contemporary Cinderella story with a kink and a wink...The role of Lee, which Maggie Gyllenhaal imbues with a restrained comic delicacy and sweetness, should make her a star." -- Stephen Holden, The New York Times

"The meaning of 'Secretary' is that pain is liberation. This is not a comic idea but a pornographic idea, mixed with defiant anti-feminism." -- David Denby, The New Yorker

"There may be better actors than James Spader and Maggie Gyllenhaal, but for this material, I cannot think who they are. About Spader there always seems to be some unarticulated secret hovering, and Gyllenhaal avoids numerous opportunities to make her character seem pathetic, and makes her seem plucky instead--intent on establishing herself and making herself necessary...The movie's humor comes through the close observation of behavior. It allows us to understand what has happened without specifying it." --Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

"The pace throughout is pretty glacial, which is meant to make every thwack meaningful. Spader, enunciating each of his syllables as if speech itself were a form of S&M, is in a constant state of slow burn; it's the most James Spader–ish performance he's ever given. Gyllenhaal, with her bright saucer eyes and her aging-cherub face, is always worth watching, and she has some fine, flukey moments when the bliss of self-abasement sends her sky-high... For all its Buñuellian pretensions, 'Secretary' is deeply conventional: Edward and Lee accept their bondage as the way to a more fulfilling life. It's the filmmakers who need to be spanked." --Peter Rainer, New York

"Maggie Gyllenhaal plays Lee as a wallflower discovering her inner wildflower. There's a word for an actress who can go from nervous to winsome to raunchy to romantic in a heartbeat and get you to adore her the whole time. The word is star." --Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly

"...this season's most perverse, hilarious, upside-down romantic comedy...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." --Guy Flatley, Moviecrazed