Secretary - Classic Film Pick
James Spader and Maggie Gyllenhaal are exquisitely cast in director Steven Shainberg’s quirky and provocative exploration of a romantic relationship built on erotic domination and submission between a sharp-minded attorney and his masochistic secretary. Based on Mary Gaitskill's short story "Bad Behavior," the film became a cultural touchstone for audiences to identify with its dignified view of BDSM as practiced in a context of normal daily life. Clever, kinky, and packed with sexual tension, the film deals with modern sexuality in a refreshingly colorful yet serious way--not that there isn't a good deal of humor at play. After being hospitalized for harming herself--she's a "cutter," Lee Holloway (Gyllenhaal) starts dating Peter (Jeremy Davies), an unconventional boy she knew in high school. She also takes on a full-time job as an old-fashioned typist secretary at a one-man boutique law firm run by E. Edward Grey (Spader). As polar opposites in a unified world, Edward and Lee slip into a sexual relationship based on their work dynamic where he sternly judges and corrects every aspect of her clothing, posture, behavior, and work performance after seeing her in public with Peter. Angelo Badalamenti's seamless musical score works hand-in-glove with the film's meticulous production design to imbue the story's path of personal discovery and sexual fantasy. Steven Shainberg maintains a level of erotic suspense and anticipation that his empathetic characters fulfill with pleasantly surprising acts of physical expression.