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.


Steven Shainberg


Erin Cressida Wilson (screenplay), Mary Gaitskill (short story) | 2 more credits »
968 ( 18)
Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 15 wins & 25 nominations. See more awards »





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


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


The story of a demanding boss and the woman who loves his demands. 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:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


Despite her character struggling to lift heavy objects and climb into a dumpster, actress Maggie Gyllenhaal had no trouble performing these tasks. See more »


In the first scene, Lee takes an assumedly freshly-typed letter directly from the typewriter with her mouth. But as she's walking down the hall toward E. Edward Grey's office, a circled error can be seen on the letter. See more »


[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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References Leaving Las Vegas (1995) See more »


I'm Your Man
Performed by Leonard Cohen
Written by Leonard Cohen
Courtesy of Columbia Records and Sony Music Entertainment (Canada) Inc.
By Arrangement with Sony Music Licensing
See more »

User Reviews

Closest thing to Sadomasochism Hollywood will ever get.
14 January 2004 | by eternaldomSee all my reviews

This movie is a fantastic work of and about the loving, caring relationships present in BDSM. That two humans can inflict pain, punishment and suffering onto another that they love and do it intentionally and not only do it but also enjoy it is something not often seen in the best of lights. Often BDSM films depict the darker "edge" side of the lifestyle and show only the cruel torture that can be involved. You may often find these films on the internet or an adult book/video store. The film Secretary is a deeply touching portrayal of a young lady who is suffering from alot of painful problems, the worst of which is self-mutilation. she, as most self-mutilators do, inflicts bloodletting and pain on herself to "feel alive". The pain being a sensation that they feel and reminds them that a corpse feels no pain. Sadly this is often one of many problems people have. But in Hollywood all is well. Luckily this is only a film as even the lifestyle of BDSM regards the act of harming anyone to be bad. Hurt on the other hand is quite pleasureable for a masochist as Maggie Gyllenhaal's character "Lee" learns and experiences. James Spader's character "E Edward Grey" is a lawyer with apparently too much time on his hands as he almost never met with a client or appeared in court or a law library, who feels ashamed and embarresed about his feelings of Sadism and Domination. Through Lee he is able to come out of his shell and they both lean on each other for growth and development onto themselves. This causes them to fall in love and bonds them even further beyond what they sadomasochistic episodes do. Each session becomes heavier and edgier as they explore deeper and awaken more inside themselves. What a truly wonderful film about the lifestyle that many, many people do on a daily basis and even 24/7 for a large number. The closest Hollywood will ever come to showing how great and wonderful a BDSM relationship can be.

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Release Date:

11 October 2002 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Secretary See more »


Box Office


$4,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$182,306, 22 September 2002

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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