One word of warning, this movie has a kind of kinky buzz. When I was buying my ticket to see it, the woman in the ticket booth said, ``Secretary, eh? (Ok, she was Canadian) Do you want to put a hand on my buttock?'' Then, there's the fact that Secretary stars James Spader. He has had a kinky buzz ever since his turn in Sex, Lies and Videotape launched him into a career of weird roles (e.g., Crash) often involving strange sex. Secretary is a very funny and entertaining movie and you should go see it even if your friends start saying, ``Oh, so you're going to see Secretary are you?"
Secretary tells the very surreal story of a young woman (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who just got out of the loony bin. She was there because she abuses herself. Her home life is the reason she got committed. Her father is an alcoholic and beats her mother (Lesley Anne Warren). Unfortunately, she returns straight back into that world and her cycle of abuse starts again. She reconnects with a boy (Jeremy Davies) she knew from high school who wants to marry her but she doesn't find him exciting. He is a dweeb. Maybe I just don't like him because he played Upham, the guy who got everyone killed in Saving Private Ryan. Anyway, to escape all this, Maggie goes to the local community college and takes a typing course. I'm sure my description of the plot so far has sounded fairly depressing but at this point in the movie it all becomes surreal and whimsical as Maggie is hired to be a lawyer's (James Spader) secretary. Spader has his own problems and his secretaries leave as soon as they get to know his proclivities. But he meets his match in Gyllenhaal. They begin an employer-employee relationship that is more about sado-masochism and dominance/submissives than the law. The other characters are purposely one-dimensional. They don't seem real to Maggie. But Spader breaks through into Maggie's world and gives her a reason to get up in the morning. He's just the kind of boss everyone would want, anal retentive, obsessive compulsive, controlling and a sado-masochist! I won't reveal any more about the plot except that, as you may have heard, some spanking is involved. While this movie is kinky, it is a comedy about kinkiness and it's very funny.
Spader and Gyllenhaal both give
inspired performances and they are great together. I haven't seen
Gyllenhaal before but she manages to be cute and funny while abusing herself
with a razor blade. Acting seems to run in her family. Her brother
is Jake Gyllenhaal who made a splash with October
Sky and appears in Lovely
& Amazing, The Good
Girl and Moonlight Mile
this year. Spader's performance is an eye-opener. In his
other films, he often seems to be sleepwalking through his parts. But here
he brings a truly bizarre personality to life, making him both believable
and likeable. Despite what you and the woman who sold me my theatre
ticket may have heard, this is a romantic comedy. I haven't seen
a movie that is so off the wall yet entertaining since Rushmore.
This film should be the feel-good film of the fall. Go see it!