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Secretary (2002)

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A young woman, recently released from a mental hospital, gets a job as a secretary to a demanding lawyer, where their employer-employee relationship turns into a sexual, sadomasochistic one.

Director:

Steven Shainberg

Writers:

Erin Cressida Wilson (screenplay), Mary Gaitskill (short story) | 2 more credits »
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Popularity
1,028 ( 86)
Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 15 wins & 25 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
James Spader ... Mr. Grey
Maggie Gyllenhaal ... Lee Holloway
Jeremy Davies ... Peter
Lesley Ann Warren ... Joan Holloway
Stephen McHattie ... Burt Holloway
Patrick Bauchau ... Dr. Twardon
Jessica Tuck ... Tricia O'Connor
Oz Perkins ... Jonathan
Amy Locane ... Lee's Sister
Mary Joy ... Sylvia
Michael Mantell ... Stewart
Lily Knight Lily Knight ... Paralegal
Sabrina Grdevich ... Allison
Lacey Kohl Lacey Kohl ... Louisa
Julene Renee ... Jessica
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Storyline

An emotionally fragile woman recently released from a mental hospital for self mutilation goes to school to gain secretarial skills to gain employment. She has an alcoholic father and a co-dependent mother who are clueless as to who she really is which a tormented soul who really wants to find something with which she can find success. She is a great secretary and finds a job with a unique, old fashioned, but off center in charge boss with a somewhat sadistic sexual proclivity. She grows and evolves and so does he. Written by kateann1027

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Assume the position. See more »

Genres:

Comedy | Drama | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong sexuality, some nudity, depiction of behavioral disorders, and language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

11 October 2002 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

La secretaria See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$4,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$182,306, 22 September 2002

Gross USA:

$4,059,680

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$9,304,609
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Two posters were made for this film, one showing leads James Spader and Maggie Gyllenhaal and the other showing a model from behind bending over. Gyllenhaal admitted that the model was not her but it was someone who was dating her ex-boyfriend. See more »

Goofs

When Lee gets back in the car after her interview with Grey, the camera angle is in the back of the car looking straight between Lee and her mother. From this angle, one should be able to see Mrs. Holloway's face (otherwise she couldn't see behind the car while driving). Instead, we see the lower side of her head and the space above her right shoulder. To get a line of sight of the rear window with the mirror in this position, she'd have to scrunch down and lean to the right while driving. Worse, as the car drives away, the mirror remains at this cockeyed angle. Also in this scene (assuming they're supposed to be in the actual small city Clermont, FL as opposed to a fictional big city Clairmont, FL) when they drive away from Grey's office, a skyscraper can be seen in the distance (possibly downtown Los Angeles from the south if the scene was filmed in the morning). See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Lee: [narrating] I got out of the institution on the day of my sister's wedding. I had started to get used to the place. Breakfast at 8:00, classes at 2:00. Therapy at 4:00, and asleep by 10:00.
Dr. Twardon: [Lee's doctor says goodbye] You can call me any time, Lee. I will always try to be of help to you.
Lee: [narrating] Inside, life was simple.
Lee: [Lee hugs her doctor] Thank you, Dr. Twardon.
Lee: [narrating] For that reason, I was reluctant to go.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The legal disclaimer has typing errors:
  • "fictitious" is misspelled "ficticious"
  • "unintentional" is misspelled "unitentional"
  • unauthorized use of the film is warned as resulting in "civil liberty" instead of "civil liability"
See more »

Connections

Spoofed in The Helix... Loaded (2005) See more »

Soundtracks

A View of a City from an Airplane
Performed by Oranger
Written by Michael Drake
Courtesy of Amazing Grease Records
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

a dark comedy layered with nuanced social and personal commentary
13 April 2003 | by stephenksmithSee all my reviews

What is the path to love? For every person, it's different. The superficial circumstances are similar... you meet someone at work, at school, in a singles bar. And, usually, the emotional pathways are similar. Eyes meet. We talk. We dance. We communicate about ourselves to each other. Then begins the sexual part, so we parry and thrust, take signals from each other, and, over time, we feel each other up together. But what about the path to love through the back door (so to speak)? What about a love story where she's a young, neurotic woman, just out of a mental hospital back to a family where Dad's a serious drunk and Mom's a serious nervous fruitcake. And what about a man, an attorney, who's emotionally closed off and can only get in touch with orchids, inserting long stainless-steel tools into their waiting organs. Yes, these two find each other in one of the most bizarre cinematic love stories ever.

I loved this movie. I pilgrim around, searching through books and movies for secret pathways to and circumstances of the human heart. This movie transcends its gentle S&M to reveal yet another way to love.

Our heroine, the fresh-faced (and magnificently moon-like) Maggie Gyllenhaal is brilliant as the new secretary to a lawyer who goes through so many secretaries, he has a "secretary" vacancy sign he lights up outside his office. As our heroine tries to re-enter the world by getting her first job with this man, it becomes apparent that the boss is anything but normal. He is demanding yet insistent that his new charge break away from her stifling past and be herself. But what or who is she? And who in the hell is he?

The movie is sexy. There's no denying it. Gyllenhaal is radiant and sinuous, and we feel that she's truly experiencing the wonder of it all for the first time. Spader is type-cast a bit, but his world-weary sexiness fits well with Gyllenhaal's naiveté. And, let's face it, Gyllenhaal is grippingly sexy, and we see her in hose, panties, tight skirts and in the nude. And as far as I'm concerned, she's fabulous, darling. And in one of the movie's sexiest, most endearing scenes, we see Spader carry her off in her urine-soaked wedding dress as he finally assumes his responsibilities as her loving "dom". She is totally tired, subservient and radiant in total surrender, rescued from a voyeurizing world. What a hunk of sexy cinema that was with her arm languidly draped around Spader's neck as he carried the bride over the threshold to love and dominance. Wow.

This movie explores and explodes sexual myths. The director has successfully created a dark comedy layered with nuance in a stew of social commentary. This movie is not for everyone. Stay away if you're conventionally wrapped, conservative, or lacking in a certain joy of exploration. But if you're ready for a most untraditional-traditional love story, Spader and Gyllenhaal give Oscar worthy performances... but of course the subject matter nixed that.


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