Sadomasochism provides the backdrop for a very unusual employer/employee relationship in this very offbeat romantic drama from filmmaker Steven Shainberg. Lee Holloway (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is a shy young woman, who, after a brief spell in a mental institution, is released in the care of her overprotective mother (Lesley Ann Warren) and hard-drinking father (Stephen McHattie). Hoping to make good on her own, Lee begins looking for a job, and in her free time indulges in her odd habit of inflicting pain upon herself in various ways. Lee is hired as a secretary by E. Edward Grey (James Spader), a grim and ruthlessly efficient attorney who warns her that her work will be both dull and demanding. Lee takes to the job with genuine enthusiasm, and while she’s recently acquired a new boyfriend, Peter (Jeremy Davies), she’s far more intrigued by Grey’s coldly patrician demeanor. While Grey often criticizes Lee, she seems to thrive on his abuse, but one day he crosses a line when he insists upon spanking her after some minor mistake. Lee quite enjoys the treatment, and wants it to continue, but Grey can no longer take pleasure humiliating Lee when he knows that she likes it; he fires her, despite her pleas to be allowed to stay. Finally discovering the key to her sexual and emotional needs, Lee tries to persuade Peter to be rough with her, but he simply doesn’t have the taste or talent for it, and Lee soon maps out a last-ditch effort to win back her position with Grey, whatever the cost. Secretary won a special award for “Originality” at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival.
Steven Shainberg (born 5 February 1963) is an American film director and producer. He is the nephew of author Lawrence Shainberg. Both are part of the Shainberg family of Memphis, Tennessee, founder of the Shainberg’s chain of stores, which is now part of Dollar General.
Shainberg received his BA from Yale University in English Literature and East Asian studies. After graduation, he worked as a location manager, assistant director, production coordinator, and assistant editor on a number of films, commercials, and rock videos. He also worked as an independent producer developing adaptations of Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent and Henry James’ The Americans. At the American Film Institute, he directed and wrote four short films including The Prom starring Jennifer Jason Leigh, Andras Jones and J. T. Walsh. The Prom won the Grand Prize at the Houston International Film Festival, the Critics’ Award at the Breckenridge Film Festival, and the Silver Medal for Drama at the New York… read more
This idiosyncratic indie flick which explores the relationship between the wonderful Gyllenhaal as a submissive secretary and Spader as her dominant boss is essentially, despite all the kinky S & M trimmings, a romantic comedy. The dark nature of the subject matter is contrasted visually with the director's choice of utilising mostly bright primary colours as part of the sumptuous production design. Spankingly good..
Though advance word on Steven Soderbergh’s The Girlfriend Experience was lukewarm after its sneak rough cut preview at Sundance…
Lee Holloway is a smart, quirky woman in her twenties who returns to her hometown in Florida after a brief stay in a mental hospital. In search of relief from herself and her oppressive childhood environment… read review
Im Grunde ist dieser Film ein Kammerspiel, in dem eine “sadomasochistische sexuelle Welt” ohne Pathologisierung und Belustigung beheimatet ist. Daher ist die gewöhnliche Genrezuordnung in “Komödie… read review