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Secretary (2002)

R  |   |  Comedy, Drama, Romance  |  11 October 2002 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.1/10 from 65,336 users   Metascore: 63/100
Reviews: 386 user | 162 critic | 39 from Metacritic.com

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 15 wins & 23 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?


The producers got a permit for the wrong park when Lee walks home. The producer on set had to distract the local law enforcement that showed up while the scenes were filmed. See more »


Peter washes clothes at Lucy's LaundryMart, a California chain with no locations in Florida. See more »


Lee: Because I don't want to.
See more »


Featured in 100 Greatest Sexy Moments (2003) See more »


It's So Strange (The Way Love Works)
Performed by The Honeydogs
Written by Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich, Neil Diamond
Courtesy of King Z Records
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

a dark comedy layered with nuanced social and personal commentary
13 April 2003 | by (Iowa City, IA, U.S.A.) – See all my reviews

What is the path to love? For every person, it's different. The superficial circumstances are similar... you meet someone at work, at school, in a singles bar. And, usually, the emotional pathways are similar. Eyes meet. We talk. We dance. We communicate about ourselves to each other. Then begins the sexual part, so we parry and thrust, take signals from each other, and, over time, we feel each other up together. But what about the path to love through the back door (so to speak)? What about a love story where she's a young, neurotic woman, just out of a mental hospital back to a family where Dad's a serious drunk and Mom's a serious nervous fruitcake. And what about a man, an attorney, who's emotionally closed off and can only get in touch with orchids, inserting long stainless-steel tools into their waiting organs. Yes, these two find each other in one of the most bizarre cinematic love stories ever.

I loved this movie. I pilgrim around, searching through books and movies for secret pathways to and circumstances of the human heart. This movie transcends its gentle S&M to reveal yet another way to love.

Our heroine, the fresh-faced (and magnificently moon-like) Maggie Gyllenhaal is brilliant as the new secretary to a lawyer who goes through so many secretaries, he has a "secretary" vacancy sign he lights up outside his office. As our heroine tries to re-enter the world by getting her first job with this man, it becomes apparent that the boss is anything but normal. He is demanding yet insistent that his new charge break away from her stifling past and be herself. But what or who is she? And who in the hell is he?

The movie is sexy. There's no denying it. Gyllenhaal is radiant and sinuous, and we feel that she's truly experiencing the wonder of it all for the first time. Spader is type-cast a bit, but his world-weary sexiness fits well with Gyllenhaal's naiveté. And, let's face it, Gyllenhaal is grippingly sexy, and we see her in hose, panties, tight skirts and in the nude. And as far as I'm concerned, she's fabulous, darling. And in one of the movie's sexiest, most endearing scenes, we see Spader carry her off in her urine-soaked wedding dress as he finally assumes his responsibilities as her loving "dom". She is totally tired, subservient and radiant in total surrender, rescued from a voyeurizing world. What a hunk of sexy cinema that was with her arm languidly draped around Spader's neck as he carried the bride over the threshold to love and dominance. Wow.

This movie explores and explodes sexual myths. The director has successfully created a dark comedy layered with nuance in a stew of social commentary. This movie is not for everyone. Stay away if you're conventionally wrapped, conservative, or lacking in a certain joy of exploration. But if you're ready for a most untraditional-traditional love story, Spader and Gyllenhaal give Oscar worthy performances... but of course the subject matter nixed that.

64 of 69 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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