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Secretary (2002)

R  |   |  Comedy, Drama, Romance  |  11 October 2002 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.1/10 from 64,620 users   Metascore: 63/100
Reviews: 386 user | 162 critic | 39 from

A young woman, recently released from a mental hospital, gets a job as a secretary to a demanding lawyer, where their employer-employee relationship turns into a sexual, sadomasochistic one.



(screenplay), (short story), 2 more credits »
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Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 18 wins & 20 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Jonathan (as Oz Perkins)
Lee's Sister
Lily Knight ...
Lacey Kohl ...


James Spader is the original Mr. Grey, a seemingly normal lawyer whose relationship with his new secretary (Maggie Gyllenhaal) descends into a kinky affair that would give nightmares to any human resource director. Written by Lionsgate

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Assume the position. See more »


Comedy | Drama | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong sexuality, some nudity, depiction of behavioral disorders, and language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

11 October 2002 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

La secretaria  »

Box Office


$4,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$182,306 (USA) (20 September 2002)


£829,624 (UK) (13 June 2003)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


This is one of the only mainstreams film that portrays BDSM in a positive light and not as abuse. See more »


Lee is bent over his desk and Mr Grey instructs her to pull down her pantyhose and underwear. When viewed in profile we see the edge of a bodysuit across her thigh. It's unlikely to be a tan line because she was completely covered (hiding her scars) while her girlfriends were in bikinis. See more »


Lee: [voice-over while typing] My flowers had just about given up in despair, so with the exception of a few potted plants from the florist we are flowerless for the first spring in years.
See more »


Featured in Indie Sex: Extremes (2007) See more »


Summer of Love
Performed by The Januaries
Written by Rick Boston, Debbie Diamond, Peter Smith
Courtesy of Foodchain Records
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Not Your Typical Office Romance
22 September 2002 | by (New York, N.Y.) – See all my reviews

Maggie Gyllenhaal deserves an Oscar nomination for her brilliant portrayal of borderline psychotic, self-mutilating Lee Holloway, a former mental institution patient seeking to sustain herself - vocationally and emotionally - in a challenging world where she has few safe harbors. She comes from a messy family background although that alone can't explain her illness.

Learning typing, she gets a secretary's job with lawyer E. Edward Grey (James Spader, who also turns in a first-rate, nuanced performance). Grey refuses to have any computers in his very smart, expensive law office. Like many lawyers he's a perfectionist who abhors typographical errors but his obsession with perfection reflects more than an anal personality hitched to a law degree. His solo practice seems to thrive better than his self-control of a suppressed sexuality, awakened by Maggie at first unknowingly.

This is a film about what many consider to be deviant behavior (sado-masochism and bondage-discipline, not your usual Hollywood romantic fun and games) that most will concur is uncommon in the workplace. Director Steven Shainberg and his cast - and Gyllenhaal and Spader carry the film, forget the supporting actors - show Lee and Grey's rocky and developing relationship with candor, without condemnation and without exploitation. The lawyer and his secretary are sexualized in a way few have experienced and those who have don't talk to folks outside their circle.

This is a black comedy/a black drama. It either grabs or repels the viewer: there's no in-between. The resolution? Is it realistic or a cop-out? I'd love to hear from those able to comment from experience on IMDb's discussion board. But I have a feeling few will post reactions.

A very different film that I rate 8/10 on a personal scale where I value the deep and tortured acting projecting the absorbing conflict of this sexualized working (initially) relationship.

144 of 169 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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