An emotionally fragile woman recently released from a mental hospital for self mutilation goes to school to gain secretarial skills to gain employment. She has an alcoholic father and a co-dependent mother who are clueless as to who she really is which a tormented soul who really wants to find something with which she can find success. She is a great secretary and finds a job with a unique, old fashioned, but off center in charge boss with a somewhat sadistic sexual proclivity. She grows and evolves and so does he.Written by
Despite her character struggling to lift heavy objects and climb into a dumpster, actress Maggie Gyllenhaal had no trouble performing these tasks. See more »
When Lee goes to Mr. Grey's office to apply for a job, rain
falls only in the foreground. Closer observation shows that the background location is reasonably dry and not being rained on. See more »
I got out of the institution on the day of my sister's wedding. I had started to get used to the place. Breakfast at 8:00, classes at 2:00. Therapy at 4:00, and asleep by 10:00.
[Lee's doctor says goodbye]
You can call me any time, Lee. I will always try to be of help to you.
Inside, life was simple.
[Lee hugs her doctor]
Thank you, Dr. Twardon.
For that reason, I was reluctant to go.
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The legal disclaimer has typing errors:
"fictitious" is misspelled "ficticious"
"unintentional" is misspelled "unitentional"
unauthorized use of the film is warned as resulting in "civil liberty" instead of "civil liability"
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.
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