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Secretary (2002)

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0:59 | Trailer
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
705 ( 122)
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:

The story of a demanding boss and the woman who loves his demands. 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:

Secretary 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

The soundtrack includes a little-known Little Richard song, "Directly From My Heart to You," (a B-side that didn't chart when it was first released), which is playing early in the movie during Lee's sister's wedding reception. Interestingly, this song also appears in another film featuring actor Patrick Bauchau (Lee's therapist in the movie), the film "The Rapture" (1991). See more »

Goofs

The letter that Lee masturbates to in the bathroom is dated July 27, 1999, yet earlier in the story she is seen reading the June 2001 issue of Cosmopolitan. 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 »


Soundtracks

Music to Watch Girls By
Performed by The James Taylor Quartet
Written by Sid Ramin (as Sidney Ramin) and Anthony Velona
Courtesy of Acid Jazz Records
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »

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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