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Secretary (2002)

January 12, 2010

3/10 Spanking Sessions

Too damn strange for its own good.

Secretary is about a fragile woman that gets out of a mental hospital after nearly killing herself and finds a job working as a secretary for the weirdest lawyer alive. Initially, she hits it out of the park, then the lawyer realizes she’s kinda sorta seeing someone, so he gets jealous, makes her life a living hell and starts slapping her ass like you wouldn’t believe. Naturally, she ends up falling for him, and so begins this bizarro game of sadomasochistic cat and mouse that they call love.

Looking back, I’m not really sure what I expected to get out of this movie. I’d heard about it before, not so much about whether it was good or not, but mostly about how racy it was and that’s about it. I’ll admit, the poster did peak my interest, but unfortunately, racy movies don’t necessarily translate to good movies.

I guess I’ll start off with the positive because it totally pales in comparison to the negative.

The only thing I can think of that’s at best a saving grace for this movie is Maggie Gyllenhaal as the said secretary. I’m not a big fan of Gyllenhaal to begin with, but considering how much wacky shit she was put through here and that her character is the only moderately redeeming one of the bunch, she gets a mention. Still not sold on her though, still not a selling point to the movie either.

Everyone else, not so hot. James Spader plays the lawyer and holy hell is he weird to a fault. Eccentric would be putting it kindly, flat-out stupid is probably more accurate; dude just bothered me. Also features Jeremy Davies as Gyllenhaal’s sorta boyfriend, and while he’s not all too memorable because he acts the same way in every movie, I can’t help but think of him as “Eugene from Eugene” after watching Rescue Dawn, so I guess he gets unintentional points for that. I’m also a big Lost fan, so that helps, too.

But the big problem with Secretary is that it doesn’t make me give a shit about anything it has to say or offer. Was I supposed to have this big epiphany or change of heart for these nut cases once the ass-whupping starts? How on Earth would that make anyone connect to these characters? And that’s just the first in a long line of increasingly odd sexual “fantasies” that these two get themselves into. By the time they start to really develop and realize their true feelings for each other, it’s lost on me and my eyes can only roll so far before it starts to hurt.

This movie also plays into an issue I have with on-screen nudity. Not surprisingly, Maggie here gets super naked for all us viewers. What is surprising  is that it occurs at a time when it doesn’t really seem to matter or make any difference to the story as a whole. But even if she had donned her birthday suit at a huge turning point, I still can’t help but wonder, “Is this really the movie you want to get naked for? This was the dealbreaker?” As a whole, this movie blows, and as a result I almost felt bad for her by the end, that this of all movies is the reason everyone now knows what you look like naked. Whatever, not my call.

I don’t know if I’m in the minority here or what, but I didn’t get it. It’s not well-written, the direction is pretty amateurish, as is the score, and it borders more on creepy than it does on cutting edge. Something about a romantic comedy that isn’t funny and equates “romantic” to “Hit me harder, Master!” doesn’t really work for me. Maybe I’m just old fashioned, I don’t know. I wouldn’t have gotten naked for it, I know that much for sure.

Now Titanic, I definitely would have gotten naked for that.

13 Comments leave one →
  1. January 12, 2010 5:51 am

    I kinda liked this film, but it is the epitome of F’d Up. The bit where he jizzes right up her back… eeeeewww. Just love the idea of Maggie Gyllenhaal being a total dirty, but after seeing “Away We Go” I’ll never view her in that light again!!! 😦

    • January 12, 2010 12:44 pm

      Yeah, big WTF movie right here, especially in regards to that charming scene you’re referring to. Gyllenhaal was pretty weird in Away We Go, too. Eh, she still doesn’t do it for me. Maybe someday.

  2. January 12, 2010 9:41 am

    Mark me down as someone who thinks that poster is super-duper.

    As for the film itself, you’re right…the whole thing just felt…off. It wasn’t engaging, it wasn’t sexy, it just “was”. The only thing I liked about it was the fact that it was the first time I’d seen Maggie Gyllenhaal in anything.

  3. January 12, 2010 1:09 pm

    man, i must have stumbled on to the wrong comment thread, i thought this was for people who knew something about movies…
    Secretary is a solid show. its a love story, alright not a conventional one, but ignore all the pissing and other stuff and thats what you have, a sweet love story.
    do you think James Spader even knows cameras are rolling around him when he makes these movies?
    as Hatter said, great great poster

    • January 12, 2010 1:33 pm

      ouch! those are some fightin’ words!
      i don’t know, man. i didn’t get the love. found it hard to ignore all the pissing and other stuff when it’s at the forefront of everything. did like the scene where he tells her that she’s gonna stop cutting herself, and she does, but after that, sucker took a nosedive.
      and i really hope Spader isn’t like that in real life.

  4. Rob M permalink
    January 12, 2010 2:06 pm

    I kind of liked this movie because I like twisted stuff, but it was a lot to take on the first viewing. Spader seems to have a slight penchant for the deranged, the perverted, and the sadomasochistic. Other examples that come to my mind are Boston Legal (no hardcore stuff, but any viewer of the show will understand) and Crash (the one where he bangs Holly Hunter…not the Oscar winner thankfully). I think it’s sort of become his shtick.

  5. January 14, 2010 6:59 am

    As much as I hate to agree with Ross I find myself doing it again. It is a really good film and Maggie Gyllenhaal is as brilliant as ever.

    Surprised by Hatters comment about being the first film he saw Maggie Gyllenhaal in, does that mean you missed out on Cecil B. DeMented and Donnie Darko? If you did I hope you have seen them since!

    • January 14, 2010 10:35 am

      Never saw Cecil B. Demented, but Darko’s pretty damn good. Need to give that one another looksee.

  6. January 17, 2010 8:05 pm

    i must say i dont agree with most of your ratings… but you’re pretty hilarious. ADDED TO BLOGROLL.

  7. Leannan permalink
    January 23, 2012 3:18 am

    Perhaps you just couldnt relate on the level of people it was really meant for. I found this movie hugely meaningful and am horriefied by your inconsiderate remarks.
    Anyone who is or has ever been SI (self injurer, incase you are so uninformed) or a “cutter” can relate to the lead in deep ways. It could have been me talking a few times there and im sure im not the only SI out there who feels that way.
    I also related highly to the BDSM aspect i myself was once thrown over a bosses knee and whipped with a phone cord. So again i related in a very personal way to the characters in regards to thoses aspects as well. As much as i enjoyed those moments the biggest most impactual scene is when He tells her she wont hurt herself anymore and then dicards her SI “kit”
    The relief in the idea that someday apartner could come along and give you the direction to let that all go , being able to submit entirely yet still know that you would get the pain you need to survive.
    I suspect this story was very real and very special to a great many people who suffer as she and I . Her voice “I’ve been doing it since the 7th grade” still echos in my soul touching the tween me letting her know she is not alone .

    Perhaps your lucky you cant feel so deep to hurt that way. But how dare you discount all of us in the world who can. Your superficial review only prooves the shallowness of your own soul.
    I feel sorry for you, that your view is so narrow you can see all that is in the world , how real this film could be to some.

    Btw the scene of Titanic in the car when all you see is a hand through steamed windows is way more meaningful erotic and powerful then winslet in all her naked glory could ever be. It was an equally not plot driven nude scene , but equally artistic and beautiful. Sometimes the moment is the point. The art and beauty of it. And not weather or not it moves story along.

    Spader and Gyellenhal were both beautiful and brilliant and related something very real to me. For which i will always be greatful. I would recomend this film to anyone who has the depth of spirit and understanding to really enjoy!!!

    • February 6, 2012 11:49 am

      Holy cannoli! Think I touched a nerve there. Well, glad you liked the movie and related to it so deeply, can’t ask for more than that in a movie. Didn’t do much for me, still doesn’t, but then again, don’t really have the personal experience to go off of like you do. Was just speaking for my moviegoing self, not speaking for humanity as a whole, hope that saves my soul somewhat. Either way, yikes!

      Thanks for stopping by!

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