“Secretary” (2002)

“Secretary” (2002)
“Secretary” (2002)

“Secretary” (2002)

Perhaps the best-known mainstream take on S&M, bondage and kink to modern audiences before “Fifty Shades Of Grey” (enough so that the earlier film’s released a special trailer to surf the E.L. James wave, which is fair enough given the debt that James owes it), Steven Shainberg’s film “Secretary” is unlikely: essentially, it’s a BDSM rom-com, one that works remarkably well. Adapted by Erin Cressida Wilson from a short story by Mary Gaitskill, it’s led by Maggie Gyllenhaal as Lee, a troubled, self-harming young woman who lands a job with James Spader’s quirky lawyer E. Edward Grey (hmm, Grey…), who eventually initiates her in his non-vanilla practices. The film’s structured like a more traditional romantic comedy, complete with a runaway bride scene (Gaitskill dismissed the adaptation as “the ‘Pretty Woman’ version”), but it’s surprisingly very effective at melding darker material with something that’s genuinely light, funny and romantic in places, while also giving both Spader and Gyllenhaal a fair shake when it comes to their psychology, even if it’s a little too neat in places. It’s particularly notable as one of the first films to suggest that, while BDSM can be a result of damage, it can also be a way to heal, and the conclusion is unexpectedly sweet.

Rating: 5.0. From 1 vote.
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