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 »
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Popularity
430 ( 150)
Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 15 wins & 25 nominations. See more awards »

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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
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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:

The story of a demanding boss and the woman who loves his demands. 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 »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

In a 2018 interview Maggie Gyllenhaal called her role in Secretary "the first time that I was given a role where I could express something about myself," describing taking the role of Lee as an opportunity to "explore something that's on the edge of what I know about myself but with the protection of fiction." She also gave director Steven Shainberg a lot of credit for his collaborative approach, describing him as "interested in me as an artist, was interested in what I was offering, and the way that shifted the story, as opposed to whatever he had imagined before I got there." 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.
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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"
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Connections

Referenced in Dinner for Five: Episode #2.13 (2003) See more »

Soundtracks

Georgina
Performed by Iffy
Written by Pederson, Merkl, Kirk Johnson
Courtesy of Foodchain Records
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User Reviews

 
Very original
17 April 2004 | by rbverhoefSee all my reviews

'Secretary' deals with a daring and original subject and does this in an effective and funny way. Its subject is sadomasochism, its genre is a romantic comedy. The secretary is Lee Holloway (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who suffers from self-mutilation, her boss is Mr. Grey (James Spader), who seems the coldest man alive. When they are in the same room you feel that there is something there, they both feel it too. Since the movie opens with a certain S/M scene we already know that there is a point in the movie where the two must find each other and start the sadomasochism activities. I will not reveal how and when it happens, but the moment is great.

Saying too much about the story would spoil things. We laugh at the right times, which is a good thing. Considering the subject it is even hard to accomplish that since people who are not familiar with it laugh very easy when they see strange things. For most audiences the events will be strange. The original approach of the movie, the performances perfect for this movie, the funny moments and an ending that plays exactly as it should this is a good movie and one of the most original romantic comedies I have seen.


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Frequently Asked Questions

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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

11 October 2002 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Secretary See more »

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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

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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