While her brother Jake is building quite an impressive career for himself, Maggie Gyllenhaal is stepping quietly through the back door, choosing a similar path of stranger, darker films. In Secretary, she stars as a young, recently-released mental patient who becomes involved in a sadomasochism relationship with her commanding boss (James Spader).
Secretary is a definitely not a film for everyone. While it does not delve too deeply into sadomasochism in the stereotypical sense (there are no masks or whips as many people would think upon first hearing the theme of the movie), it definitely is a different kind of romantic comedy. It is a little deranged at times and never normal, but what people think of its ideas should be the least of its worries.
Basically, Secretary is a dull comedy-drama with little going for it. Whether you like strange movies or not, Secretary does not have a whole lot to offer. Sure, there are a few really good scenes, and the movie is never technically bad, but there is very little content of interest here. It is slow-paced and for the most part boring.
I was not at all too impressed with Gyllenhaal. I know she is a good actress and that a lot of her performance relates to the type of character she is playing (meak and submissive), but it is just irritating to watch the main character whisper half the movie and act like a little girl when she is a grown woman. There was just something about the character that seemed odd; I guess that's the point, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.
James Spader, on the other hand, is excellent. This is his best performance in years (not as if he has had a whole lot of performances - did anyone see The Watcher?) as he really commands all of the scenes in which he is in; again, this is the point, since he is supposed to be the dominant one. Nevertheless, I still felt as though there was something missing; never once do we get to see who this man really is, and how he came to be the way he is.
Secretary has its moments, but for the most part is just a dull film. Those who like offbeat movies may want to take a gander at it at some point, but even then, there should be no rush. Do not expect much of interest from Secretary.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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