Secretary, Blu-ray (2002/2010)
Starring: James Spader, Maggie Gyllenhaal
Director: Steven Shainberg
Studio: DoubleA Films/Lionsgate 28762 [10/5/10]
Video: 1.78:1 for 16:9 1080p HD color
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish
Extras: Writer & Director Commentary track, Behind-the-Scenes featurette, Photo gallery
Length: 111 minutes
This unusual feature may be terribly sexy to some and a turnoff to others. A small box on the package back says “….depiction of behavioral disorders…” Well, that seems a bit judgmental. In a way it’s a very black comedic and thoughtful coming-of-age story. It’s daring, mysterious, and what another reviewer accurately called “highly stylized.” In the area of mainstream erotic features, “Secretary” is certainly way beyond “9½ Weeks.” And it’s full of lots more easy laughter as well as uncomfortable laughter.
This was the first starring role for Maggie Gyllenhall (as Lee) and she’s superb, as is Spader (as Edward). She plays a nervous young girl, a “cutter”, who applies for a secretarial job at Spader’s law office. She has recently been released from a medical institute which was unable to stop her compulsion, and this is her first regular job. At first she does the usual typing, filing, getting coffee, etc., but then things take a turn that, as the back-cover notes relate, “would give any human resource director the vapors!”
The New Yorker called her character a masochistic girl and Edward a creepy lawyer, but I think that is over-simplifying the complex personal relationship and its development. Edward is certainly an imperious character (who has had a string of secretaries he has fired) but he is found to have as many nervous anxieties as Lee does. There were a couple things that seemed a bit over the top even for this broad-minded reviewer, but to say more would ruin it. The mutual kinky desires of the two characters are handled without self-righteousness and with understanding, which is good. Also good is that as a result of the relationship Lee gives up the cutting.
The Blu-ray quality is superb and the Behind-the-Scenes featurette is most interesting.
– John Sunier