Length: 104 minutes
Director: Steven Shainberg (Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus; Hit Me)
Writer: Erin Cressida Wilson (Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus; My Lunch with Larry)
Starring: Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Spader, Jeremy Davies, Lesley Ann Warren, Amy Locane, Stephen McHattie, Erin Cressida Wilson, Jessica Tuck, Oz Perkins, Lily Knight, Lacey Kohl, Steven Shainberg, Patrick Bauchau
I had been recommended “Secretary” for years from various people. “It’s weird”, they would say, “You’ll like it”. I always find it funny when people recommend movies to me that they think that are “weird” because a) most of the time they aren’t very weird b) despite the fact that I watch a good amount of independent cinema, does that make me a weird movie fan? It’s not like I have a poster of “Eraserhead” hanging up in my room (though I did have a picture of David Lynch under my “heroes” section on my now deleted Myspace profile). “Secretary” is, in fact, not a weird movie, which is not why I didn’t like it. I didn’t like it, because it wasn’t a good film. It was shallow and wasted a wonderful and brave performance by Maggie Gyllenhaal- who gives it her all and let’s the director do what he wants and he wastes her. James Spader, usually a great addition to any film, doesn’t cut it as a romantic lead. He is weird and although his character, Edward Grey, is offbeat, he comes across more as creepy than misunderstood. When he starts spanking his new secretary Lee (Gyllenhaal) - the scene doesn’t come across as sweet as some critics/fans have stated or sexual, but as disturbing. I didn’t want Lee and him to fall in love. I thought her character was too sweet and good for him and I’m pretty sure that’s not what the director Steven Shainberg was going for. Edward Grey seems more likely to end up on the front page of a newspaper as a newly discovered serial killer than as the guy that sweeps up Lee in a piss stained wedding dress to whisk her away to a happy ending (you’ll have to see the movie to understand, but really, if you want my advice, I wouldn’t bother). The movie has gained cult status due to it’s dealing with S & M and such, but it doesn’t really divulge into the subject as much as it’s been hyped or perhaps should have. There are some spankings and such, though it doesn’t feel sexy or romantic. Maybe I don’t understand, I don’t know, but if the point of “Secretary” was to help me understand then it didn’t get the job done. It’d be fired.