Lee Holloway is a smart, quirky woman in her twenties who returns to her hometown in New Jersey after a brief stay in a mental hospital. In search of relief from herself and her oppressive childhood environment, she starts to date a nerdy friend from high school and takes a job as a secretary in a local law firm. She soon develops an obsessive crush on her older boss, Mr. Grey. Through their increasingly bizarre relationship, Lee follows her deepest longings to the heights of masochism and finally to a place of self-affirmation.
This small, groundbreaking comedy is a contemporary Cinderella story with a kink and a wink. Maggie Gyllenhaal is Lee, a repressed, masochistically inclined young secretary who blooms under the spanking hand of her boss, Mr. Grey (James Spader), a tight-lipped lawyer who becomes her Pygmalion-like disciplinarian. Ms. Gyllenhaal imbues her Renee Zellweger-style role with a sly comic delicacy and sweetness that should make her a star, while Mr. Spader is ideally cast as her fish-eyed yuppie liberator. The movie is written and directed in a loopy, slightly surreal style that blurs the line between fantasy and reality to illustrate its point that when it comes to sexual excitement, one's fantasy is one's reality. — Stephen Holden
2002-09-20 | Stephen Holden | Read the New York Times Review of Secretary