7.0/10
78,829
414 user 171 critic

Secretary (2002)

Trailer
0:59 | Trailer
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.

Director:

Steven Shainberg

Writers:

Erin Cressida Wilson (screenplay), Mary Gaitskill (short story) | 2 more credits »
Reviews
Popularity
523 ( 52)
Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 15 wins & 25 nominations. See more awards »

Videos

Photos

Learn more

More Like This 

White Palace (1990)
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

Still getting over the death of his wife, a young advertising executive meets an older waitress, a woman that might set him free.

Director: Luis Mandoki
Stars: Susan Sarandon, James Spader, Jason Alexander
Sherrybaby (2006)
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  

Sherry tries to integrate again into society and become a good mother.

Director: Laurie Collyer
Stars: Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ryan Simpkins, Sam Bottoms
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

A sexually repressed woman's husband is having an affair with her sister. The arrival of a visitor with a rather unusual fetish changes everything.

Director: Steven Soderbergh
Stars: James Spader, Andie MacDowell, Peter Gallagher
Dream Lover (1993)
Drama | Mystery | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  

A successful businessman tries to uncover what is wrong with his wife.

Director: Nicholas Kazan
Stars: James Spader, Mädchen Amick, Fredric Lehne
Happy Endings (2005)
Comedy | Drama | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  

Happy Endings weaves multiple stories to create a witty look at love, family and the sheer unpredictability of life itself.

Director: Don Roos
Stars: Lisa Kudrow, Steve Coogan, Maggie Gyllenhaal
9½ Weeks (1986)
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6/10 X  

A woman becomes involved with a man she barely knows. Complications develop during their sexual escapades.

Director: Adrian Lyne
Stars: Mickey Rourke, Kim Basinger, Margaret Whitton
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

A kindergarten teacher in New York becomes obsessed with one of her students whom she believes is a child prodigy.

Director: Sara Colangelo
Stars: Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gael García Bernal, Ato Blankson-Wood
Comedy | Drama | Fantasy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

An I.R.S. auditor suddenly finds himself the subject of narration only he can hear: narration that begins to affect his entire life, from his work, to his love-interest, to his death.

Director: Marc Forster
Stars: Will Ferrell, Emma Thompson, Dustin Hoffman
Crash (1996)
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  

After getting into a serious car accident, a TV director discovers an underground sub-culture of scarred, omnisexual car-crash victims who use car accidents and the raw sexual energy they produce to try to rejuvenate his sex life with his wife.

Director: David Cronenberg
Stars: James Spader, Holly Hunter, Elias Koteas
Sexo con Amor (2003)
Comedy | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  

A group of parents who have gathered to debate the sexual education schooling of their fourth grade children are forced to re-examine their own views of sex.

Director: Boris Quercia
Stars: Sigrid Alegría, Francisco Pérez-Bannen, Patricio Contreras
Crime | Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

While investigating a young nun's rape, a corrupt New York City police detective, with a serious drug and gambling addiction, tries to change his ways and find forgiveness and redemption.

Director: Abel Ferrara
Stars: Harvey Keitel, Brian McElroy, Frank Acciarito
Documentary
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

There's a new detective agency in Dallas, Texas, started by three exonerated men, with decades in prison served between them. True Conviction is a character-driven documentary that follows ... See full summary »

Director: Jamie Meltzer
Edit

Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
James Spader ... Mr. Grey
Maggie Gyllenhaal ... Lee Holloway
Jeremy Davies ... Peter
Lesley Ann Warren ... Joan Holloway
Stephen McHattie ... Burt Holloway
Patrick Bauchau ... Dr. Twardon
Jessica Tuck ... Tricia O'Connor
Oz Perkins ... Jonathan
Amy Locane ... Lee's Sister
Mary Joy ... Sylvia
Michael Mantell ... Stewart
Lily Knight Lily Knight ... Paralegal
Sabrina Grdevich ... Allison
Lacey Kohl Lacey Kohl ... Louisa
Julene Renee ... Jessica
Edit

Storyline

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 kateann1027

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Assume the position. See more »

Genres:

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:

View content advisory »
Edit

Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

11 October 2002 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Secretary See more »

Edit

Box Office

Budget:

$4,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$182,306, 22 September 2002

Gross USA:

$4,059,680

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$9,304,609
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

The boss' name is Mr. Grey. This is also the name of the main character in the "Fifty Shades of Grey" books and movies which deal with much of the same BDSM sexual subject matter. See more »

Goofs

When Lee is sitting on Grey's table while keeping her palms over it, during several visits of her friends and relatives, a pot of peas and a pile of books are left over the table. Both the pile of books and the pot of peas seem to appear and disappear in different shots of the scene during a close-up. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Lee: [narrating] 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.
Dr. Twardon: [Lee's doctor says goodbye] You can call me any time, Lee. I will always try to be of help to you.
Lee: [narrating] Inside, life was simple.
Lee: [Lee hugs her doctor] Thank you, Dr. Twardon.
Lee: [narrating] For that reason, I was reluctant to go.
See more »

Crazy Credits

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"
See more »


Soundtracks

Georgina
Performed by Iffy
Written by Pederson, Merkl, Kirk Johnson
Courtesy of Foodchain Records
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »

User Reviews

Deliciously atypical cinematic fare!!
20 April 2003 | by shubee32See all my reviews

Please indulge me while I gushingly discuss this little gem of a movie I saw last night, called Secretary. Yes, I know it was released a while ago, but since my wallet has been bereft of its pecuniary innards of late, I had to wait for the rental.

Is Secretary as creepy a psychosexual office thriller as its trailer might lead us to believe? Yes and no. Chances are, however, if the director has cast James Spader as the male lead, the viewer knows they're in for an unnerving cinematic journey. That said, there is a strong psychosexual current running through this story, but it's far from creepy; if you're occasionally inclined to use film as a means of accessing your emotions and promoting self-awareness, this might be the movie for you.

The story is that tried-but-true formula: self-mutilating girl gets out of a mental institution, returns to her dysfunctional family life, gets a job as a secretary for an anal-retentive, emotionally repressed attorney, and finds redemption and herself in the context of a sado-masochistic relationship. Yawn. How banal! This is a stunning, existential coming-of-age black comedy, and, along with Happy Accidents, one of the best unorthodox love stories I've seen this year.

Relative newcomer Maggie Gylenhaal plays Lee Holloway, our emotionally unstable protagonist. Her performance is revealing and revelatory, a brave portrayal of inner turmoil played with grace and complexity. The aforementioned Spader plays Lee's equally disturbed employer, E. Edward Gray, delivering yet another of his trademark plagued-by-inner-demons characters. I am consistently astounded by Spader's ability to infuse potentially deplorable characters with such intricate humanity that he is able to elicit sympathy and understanding. James Spader is one of our best under-utilized character actors, and thankfully has never allowed himself to be co-opted by the Hollywood mainstream. Cheers, James.

The sado-masochistic element of this film could have easily drifted into self-parody; instead, director Steven Shainberg uses it subtly and without shame as a means of exhibiting deliverance and liberation. In some ways, this film is also a meditation on power and sex roles. Lee's initial willingness to acquiesce to her boss' punitive ministerings could have easily made her a victim, i.e. of an employer, a man and an elder. Instead, this is her gateway into adulthood, allowing her to develop the inner resources to be a self-determined woman relentless in the pursuit of what and whom she wants.

Anyone involved in a long-term relationship knows that an essential ingredient is variable power balance; it's inevitable, despite some people's claims that they have a completely `equal' affiliation. These power shifts help keep romance vibrant, and equally as important, instruct us how to navigate life's rocky travails, resulting in wisdom and self-acceptance. What men often think as strength--stoicism, aloofness, obstinacy--are, more often than not, actually weaknesses, leading to ignorance, avoidance and ultimate demise. Paradoxically, it's in complete vulnerability where we actually discover what we're capable of, being able to develop emotional resilience and learning to express desire, sexual or otherwise. Gylenhaal's Lee Holloway crystallizes this vulnerability-as-strength concept beautifully, making an appealing case for growth by any means necessary. Shame is often self-imposed, and convention can serve as prison. Ultimately, each of us must choose our own path to self-actualization, and it's legitimate if it works for you.

Conversely, Spader's growth stems from actually succumbing to Lee's powerful will. His apparent `dominance,' in the end leads to his submission to her insistence that they be together. Ultimately, both benefit from the relationship, as an audience can benefit from viewing this unusual, luminous film.

9/10


13 of 16 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 414 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

Free Movies and TV Shows You Can Watch Now

On IMDb TV, you can catch Hollywood hits and popular TV series at no cost. Select any poster below to play the movie, totally free!

Browse free movies and TV series

Stream Popular Action and Adventure Titles With Prime Video

Explore popular action and adventure titles available to stream with Prime Video.

Start your free trial



Recently Viewed