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"SECRETARY"
(2002) (Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Spader) (R)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
Moderate Mild Heavy Minor None
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Moderate None None None Heavy
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Extreme Minor Moderate Moderate Moderate


QUICK TAKE:
Drama: After being released from a mental institution, a disturbed young woman takes a secretarial job with a lawyer and tentatively enters into an S&M relationship with him.
PLOT:
Lee Holloway (MAGGIE GYLLENHAAL) is a disturbed young woman who's been released from a mental institution and returns home on the day of her sister's wedding to live with their parents, Joan (LESLEY ANN WARREN) and Burt (STEPHEN McHATTIE). Needing a job to take her mind off her self-mutilation behavior, Lee applies for a secretarial position with E. Edward Grey (JAMES SPADER).

A mysterious lawyer who works in a building by himself and has had trouble retaining his previous secretaries, Edward hires Lee to type his paperwork. Yet, he doesn't allow her to use a computer and her typewriting results in several errors for which he instantly reprimands her.

Despite that, he also shows a certain compassion toward her, and his hot and cold behavior initially baffles and frustrates her. It eventually arouses her, however, and the two then ultimately enter into an informal and tentative S&M relationship that obviously puts a strain on her being engaged to Peter (JEREMY DAVIES), a former high school friend.

When Edward's sudden refusal to continue anymore causes Lee to question whether that's real or just part of his role playing, she must decide what she wants from him and for herself.

WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
Older teens might be interested in it, as might those who are fans of someone in the cast, but beyond the intrigue of the S&M angle, it doesn't seem likely that many younger kids would be interested in this one.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: R
For strong sexuality, some nudity, depiction of behavioral disorders, and language.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • MAGGIE GYLLENHAAL plays a young woman just released from a mental institution who goes from having a self-mutilation problem to engaging in an S&M relationship with her boss. Accordingly, she participates in kinky sexual behavior with him and has sex with Peter.
  • JAMES SPADER plays her boss, a mysterious and unorthodox lawyer who humiliates and belittles her as a way of drawing her into an S&M relationship. Although he knows he's different and addicted to such behavior, he can't help himself. He also uses strong profanity.
  • JEREMY DAVIES plays Lee's boyfriend and then fiancÚ with whom she has sex and he becomes concerned with her subsequent behavior.
  • LESLEY ANN WARREN plays Lee's mother who becomes concerned about Lee and hovers about her.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    Curious if this title is entertaining, any good, and/or has any artistic merit?
    Then read OUR TAKE of this film.


    (Note: The "Our Take" review of this title examines the film's artistic merits and does not take into account any of the possibly objectionable material listed below).


    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    Here's a brief look at the content found in this R-rated drama. Profanity consists of at least 3 "f" words and a handful of other expletives. Several instances of sexually explicit dialogue are present, as are all sorts of sexually related content and behavior. That includes S&M material involving spanking and masturbation, other masturbation, 2 instances of intercourse (with movement and sounds), and caressing of a woman's completely nude body (full frontal).

    Several characters strike others (including a husband to his wife), and a young and troubled woman particulates in self-mutilation behavior. Some characters drink and some have varying degrees of bad attitudes, while some tense family material is also present.

    Should you still be concerned about the film's appropriateness for yourself or anyone else in your home, you may want to look more closely at our detailed listings for more specific information regarding the film's content.


    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • We see a keg in the background of a wedding reception. We also see Lee's dad carrying a beer and appearing a bit intoxicated, with Lee stating that she thought he had stopped.
  • Lee hears her parents verbally fighting and the mother says that the father is drunk.
  • Peter and Lee have wine with dinner and she guzzles down a glass of hers.
  • Peter and his parents have wine (but Lee turns down an offer for some).
  • Edward has wine before him with dinner and we then see him holding a drink.
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • We see a flashback to some self-mutilation behavior where we see a drop of blood drop into some liquid.
  • Lee goes into the bathroom, pulls up her skirt and pulls down her pantyhose and panties to look at the large bruise on her bare buttock (which we see and that results from Edward spanking her quite hard).
  • Lee refuses to leave Edward's desk (after he told her not to leave until he returns) and thus after a while we hear urination sounds and see urine running from the office chair down to the floor.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • Lee hears her parents verbally fighting and then sees her father grab her mother and then shove her to the floor, breaking something in the room in the process.
  • Edward immediately breaks standard employment inquiry practices by asking Lee various personal and irrelevant questions. He's also extremely demeaning and mean to her from time to time about her and her work, although this is part of his S&M role playing that she eventually comes to like (although it initially upsets her quite a bit as he badgers, berates and belittles her).
  • A woman is somewhat rude to Lee in the ladies room.
  • Edward asks Lee if she had sex with Peter and she just laughs embarrassedly and then sheepishly says she doesn't know. She then cheats on Peter (her fiancÚ) with Edward.
  • Some viewers could take offense to a man comparing Lee's refusal to leave Edward's desk (from an S&M based command of his for her not to until he returns) to religious suffering with priests wearing thorns on their temples and nuns with thorns in their clothing.
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • Edward's stern and condescending belittlement of Lee could be upsetting to some viewers.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • None.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases: "Balls" and "Grapes" (testicles).
  • It's possible the film could entice some teens into emulating the S&M type behavior on display here (dominance and submissiveness, spanking, etc.).
  • Lee goes into her bedroom and pulls out her self-mutilation box (filled with razor blades, a drill bit, iodine and other such items). We then see her sharpen the leg of some small figurine and then press it quite hard into her skin (but she doesn't do it hard enough to draw blood).
  • Lee takes a hot tea kettle and presses it against the inside of her bare thigh, resulting in a look of pain and then pleasure (or satisfaction for her).
  • Lee starts to cut the inside of her thigh (not seen), but stops when Edward catches her doing that.
  • Lee pulls up her bathrobe and uses a hair brush to spank herself (we see her in her panties), but this doesn't satisfy her.
  • JUMP SCENES
  • None.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • None.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • None.
  • PROFANITY
  • At least 3 "f" words (2 used sexually as is the term "screw me"), 1 "s" word, 2 slang terms for male genitals ("c*ck" and "pr*ck"), 1 damn and 1 use of "God" as exclamations.
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • We see Lee wearing some sort of S&M bar across her shoulders (in her professional work clothes) that's padlocked to her neck with her arms also outstretched and attached to it. This is the first scene and we don't really know what's going on as we see her pick up some paper and a cup of coffee and go into an office where she closes the door (and the scene ends there).
  • Lee shows some cleavage in a bridesmaid dress.
  • As Lee prepares to burn herself with a hot tea kettle, we see a great deal of her inner thigh (where she's going to burn herself).
  • Edward asks Lee if she's pregnant or intends on getting pregnant (she says she isn't).
  • Lee spills water on herself in the office and we then see her sitting in front of Edward trying to dry the wet spot on her blouse that happens to be across her breast. As she pulls the blouse tight and rubs it, we can clearly see the shape of her breast as well as the form of her nipple (that he looks at).
  • We see the top of Lee's bare breast as she sits up in the bathtub to throw something away.
  • Edward tells Lee to place a rat trap behind a large chair and then watches as she partially climbs up and then leans over it, showing her thigh (with small bandages on it) and clothed butt (at which he stares).
  • Lee and Peter do their laundry together at the Laundromat and she comments on him wearing briefs (as she looks at them) and how they squeeze his testicles and result in his low sperm count. Moments later, the two of them make out in the Laundromat.
  • Edward asks Lee if she had sex with Peter and she just laughs embarrassedly and then sheepishly says she doesn't know.
  • Speaking somewhat metaphorically in voice over narration, Lee states that she felt (observed) something growing in Mr. Grey, "an intimate tendril creeping from one of his darker areas, nursed from the feeling that he had discovered something about me."
  • After berating Lee several times about her typing mistakes, he makes her come into his office, lean over his desk and read a letter as he then spanks her clothed rear end quite hard. Although this initially surprises and hurts her, it eventually gets both of them aroused and they briefly touch each other's hands before he abruptly stops and goes back to being all business.
  • Later, Lee goes into the bathroom, pulls up her skirt and pulls down her pantyhose and panties to look at the large bruise on her bare buttock (which we see). She looks satisfied about this.
  • We hear spanking sounds coming from Edward's office and then see her dressed with the bar over her shoulder as described in the first scene (and she goes into his office that way). We then see her crawling down the hallway on all fours with a letter in her mouth. We then hear additional spanking sounds and then see her up on a platform in his office on all fours and he puts and then straps a riding saddle onto her back.
  • Lee reads a copy of Cosmopolitan that shows a model in a cleavage-revealing bra top on the cover.
  • Lee lies face down and clothed on her bed, and then runs her hand down under her to her crotch. She then masturbates (we don't see anything explicit) while fantasizing about both Edward and Peter. We then see her pleasured facial expression and hear her aroused sounds as she "sees" Peter on top of her clothed and kissing. We then see her role over onto her back where she has her hand down at her covered crotch where she applies pressure (and we hear her orgasmic sounds).
  • Lee suggestively licks an envelope in front of Edward in another attempt to entice him. He tells her that he has to work and she then makes a face and leaves.
  • We see women in swimwear (one in a bikini that shows cleavage).
  • Lee suggestively bends over Edward's desk trying to get him to react, but he doesn't (her clothed rear faces the camera).
  • Lee pulls up her bathrobe and uses a hair brush to spank herself (we see her in her panties), but this doesn't satisfy her.
  • There's a great deal of sexual tension between the two, such as her stapling things quite hard, that drives him crazy.
  • Lee makes out with Peter on a bed while lying on top of him (both are clothed). She repeatedly places his hand down onto her clothed butt, but he puts it back onto her back. She's not happy with this, and thus turns sideways across him with her rear end (in a short skirt) sticking up into the air. She wants him to spank her, but he misinterprets the sign and shows her a rolled up condom. She says that's not what she meant and he throws it aside. She then changes her mind, but says that her clothes get to stay on and the lights must go out. We then see a head and shoulders shot of him having sex on top of her with movement and his sexual sounds until he climaxes. She's not into this and makes an occasional faked noise. He then asks if he hurt her and she replies no (in a disappointed way that he didn't).
  • Lee hears Edward's verbal sounds of doing pull-ups as something sexual (since that's what it sounds like to her).
  • Lee finally goads Edward into taking action with her again and thus he calls her into his office. He tells her to bend over his desk and then pull up her skirt. She's reluctant, but he assures her that he's not going to "f*ck you" and says that he's not interested in that. She then complies and he then tells her to lower her pantyhose and underwear, graphically repeating what he's not interested in. She also complies with this and we see a side angle of them where he pulls them down and we see the side of her bare butt with him standing directly behind her. We then her him unzip his pants and see him move closer to her (seen from in front of her) and she wonders what he's going to do. He then masturbates behind her and climaxes onto her (we see just a head and shoulders shot of him with related movement, aroused and climaxing sounds, and pleasured facial reactions). He then zips up his pants and walks around the desk and tells her to get back to work.
  • She then walks off and we see semen stains on the back of her blouse, while he finds semen on his pants that he then tries to get off.
  • She then goes into a bathroom stall where she wipes some off the semen off her blouse and then becomes aroused by that. She then masturbates while standing with her hand down inside her panties and says "c*ck," "put your pr*ck" in my mouth" and "screw me" while becoming more aroused and putting her hand inside her shirt. We then hear and see her arousal turning to orgasm while a woman in the next stall hears her.
  • Lee decides to seek out those who enjoy what she does and thus circles an S&M ad in the paper. We then see a quick montage of her encounters with these men accompanied by her voice over narration description of them. With one she says that the guy tried to grab and pinch her nipples before they made it to the car (we don't see him doing that), another guy wanted her to pee on his patio, while the third had her tie him to a gas stove and throw tomatoes at him (we see that).
  • Lee tells Edward that she wants to make love (but nothing happens right then).
  • Finding Lee dressed in a wedding dress at Edward's desk where she won't remove her hands from the desk, Peter wonders if Lee is doing something sexual. She asks him back if it looks sexual and he says that he doesn't know.
  • We see Edward undoing Lee's wedding dress from behind her and then see him washing her hair in a bathtub where we see her bare breasts just above the surface of the water. We then see more of her nudity as he dries her off while she stands completely nude in front of him (we see bare breasts and the side of her bare butt).
  • Edward then gently lays her down onto a bed where we see her bare breasts, various self-mutilation scars on her body and then full frontal nudity (pubic hair) as the camera pulls out. He then runs his hand along her body and then blows out a candle (possibly implying sex).
  • We then see a close-up of her face that then widens out as he kisses down her body and we see her bare breasts (she's in her panties). He then kisses back up her body and the two then passionately make out.
  • We see Edward and Lee having sex up against a tree around which her arms are tied behind her back. He's between her legs as both stand and there's movement and related sounds, but no nudity.
  • SMOKING
  • Lee smokes once, as does a miscellaneous man.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • Lee isn't happy with her family life and especially with her father drinking and then later being in a hospital, all of which adversely affect her.
  • Lee hears her parents verbally fighting and then sees her father grab her mother and then shove her to the floor, breaking something in the room in the process.
  • Lee gets word that her father is in the hospital and we then see her and her family looking at him in intensive care (and Lee's upset).
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • Self-mutilation behavior (Lee does various such things to her body and we see scars from past such episodes that date back to the 7th grade).
  • Sadomasochism and such dominant/submissive role playing.
  • Mental illness.
  • Employer/employee relationships.
  • VIOLENCE
  • Lee hears her parents verbally fighting and then sees her father grab her mother and then shove her to the floor, breaking something in the room in the process.
  • Lee goes into her bedroom and pulls out her self-mutilation box (filled with razor blades, a drill bit, iodine and other such items). We then see her sharpen the leg of some small figurine and then press it quite hard into her skin (but she doesn't do it hard enough to draw blood).
  • Lee takes a hot tea kettle and presses it against the inside of her bare thigh, resulting in a look of pain and then pleasure (or satisfaction for her).
  • An irate woman takes Edward's coat, throws it the floor and then stomps and wipes her feet on it.
  • Edward purposefully breaks a framed document by smashing it against a wall and we then later see broken glass all over the hallway floor.
  • Lee smacks Edward across the face.
  • Finding Lee dressed in a wedding dress at Edward's desk where she won't remove her hands from the desk, Peter wonders if Lee is doing something sexual. She asks him back if it looks sexual and he says that he doesn't know. He then drags her from the desk, she hits him in the face and they struggle where he pins her on the floor. She then knees him in the crotch or gut (causing him pain) and returns to the desk.



  • Reviewed August 26, 2002 / Posted October 11, 2002

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