Movie Review: “Secretary” (2002)

I came across this movie by accident some time back, and then found the trailers on YouTube.  It sounded interesting, so I looked it up and found that it was available on Video On Demand with our cable company.  I showed the trailers to my wife and we watched it.

The movie stars James Spader and Maggie Gyllenhaal and they do some very good acting of some very quirky behaviour.  What I like about the movie is that these two quirky people work together and they find that their quirks complement each other.

The story starts out with Maggie’s character being released from the mental hospital.  Her problem is that when she gets depressed she hurts herself.  She applies for a job as a secretary for Spader’s character, who I think is shy but strict lawyer with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) or something like it.  He is very hard to work with, and goes through secretaries so fast he has a “Secretary Wanted” lighted sign outside like a motel would have a “Vacancy” sign.

The moment these two meet there seems to be some attraction, but they keep it professional.  He goes easy on her at first, but gets increasingly more strict when she makes typos.  He is impressed that she is willing to do demeaning jobs without question, like going through the dumpster to find a report he accidentally threw out.

He has seen her hurt herself when she is angry or depressed, and so after awhile he has a talk with her and basically orders her not to do that anymore, and to dress more professionally.  Well, this is just what they both needed, and they both become more confident because of this.  She becomes more confident because of the care and interest he is taking in her, and he is more confident because of how well she is responding to his instructions.

One day he takes a big risk and disciplines / spanks her for typos.  He is a lawyer and knows that this could be the end of his career, if she sues him for sexual harassment.  But his gamble pays off, sort of.  She doesn’t sue him, and her typing does get better, until she starts making mistakes deliberately.

That’s as much of the story as I am going to tell, but I just love how she (the submissive one) becomes the instigator in the relationship.  I guess you could say she is a bit of a brat in that respect.

In “50 Shades of Grey”, Christian vents his frustrations on women he pays to take it, until he falls in love with Anastasia who was a virgin.  He tries to convince her to be submissive in this way, but it just turns her away.  

In “Secretary” neither one knows what they want until it happens.  Then they both thrive in the new lifestyle together.  I really think it is a good example of how someone can build another person up, one by taking an interest and caring, and the other by listening and doing as asked.