Adapted from a short story in Bad Behavior, a dark collection by the reliably disturbing Mary Gaitskill, Secretary subversively pokes holes in some of our coziest assumptions. It slyly proposes that the world of supposed crazies is not all that different from the madness pervasive in California's well-appointed homes and offices. And it suggests that a couple engaged in aberrant sexual behavior is not all that different from those in 'normal' relationships. The s/m power games between heroine Lee Holloway (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and her mysterious lawyer employer, Edward Grey (James Spader), might in less capable hands have sent viewers stumbing toward the exit. But the characters are more deeply thought through than in most 'right-thinking' films. And Spader and Gylenhaal strike just the right balance between exotic and recognizable, making Lee and Mr. Grey not only palatable, but a touching pair to root for.
See Filmjournal.com for full review.