Secretary (2002) - Comedy, Drama, Romance

Hohum Score



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
Stars: James Spader, Maggie Gyllenhaal
Length: 107 Minutes
PG Rating: R
Reviews: 56 out of 407 found boring (13.75%)

One-line Reviews (209)

I'm simply stating why indies are so enjoyable.

What I'm saying is that the movie held my interest very well anyway up to that point, and was fascinating enough, without really needing to go any further.

But what is most riveting is the character of Maggie that goes from 'mouse' to 'dominant' thanks to a very unconnected boss played by the wonderful James Spader.

The connection between the characters is very strong, and very intense.

In the most unexpected way.

I am really sorry to say that, but this film got me bored to death while watching it, even at the end, where - compared to what's been shown previously - the film gets into a slight climax.

In most scene, the character you can feel the tension, the awkwardness, the confusion, chemistry and most evident of all, the sexual tension.

banal and boring .

Secratary is a refreshing unique film that brings to the table a unique and fascinating story combined with brilliant acting and directing alike.

This part did somewhat ruin my appreciation but on reflection, I should have expected some cliche somewhere.

It's a fascinating character study with the best performance I've seen since Daniel Day Lewis in 'Gangs of New York'.

Maggie almost makes Secretary work, despite its confusion.

=========> To sum up: =========> Initially engaging, this movie quickly becomes highly tedius and filled with somewhat predictable redundance.

True, I was moved at times, but I was also bored at others.

You know a film is bad when two feminists are sitting in a room watching it and they are shouting for something sexual to happen because they cannot stand the boredom any more.

It understands the intense intimacy of power exchange.

Stunning performance from Maggie Gyllenthaal .

I found James' character's battle to be more intriguing and actually bigger.

Unconventional, Provocative, Seductive, Compelling, Disturbing, Complexly Layered, Voyeuristic, and Challenging .

It's really a meek telling of a young woman's coming of age through meeting men, old and new, and growing to understand what she likes.

Refreshingly Different and Unpredictable .

Oh, and add pointless to that list.

I thought this movie was genius and I am surprised such a private/personal/ embarrassing fetish could be made into an intriguing film.

Between the two of them, there are a few too many unimaginative, drawn-out individual close-ups for my taste.

This movie should be given a chance, and I hope that those who do give it that chance, find themselves in a relationship that is as intense as this.

The plot is engaging, and interesting throughout.

It did however have a fascinating protagonist and a great story.

A bizarre black comedy about a lawyer and his secretary engaging in some strange sexual games at work.

The repition of the formulaic story-telling is not impressive.

Expect great things from Maggie Gyllenhaal in the future, and thanks to the director for coaxing such a multidimensional and compelling heartbreaking performance from James Spader.

The intense James Spader and beautiful Maggie Gyllenhaal give sparkling performances, and the direction is very impressive.

a beautiful, entertaining, respectful and insightful look into the psychological and erotic aspects of sadomasochism.

After watching the movie, I felt like I wasted my time because the film was pointless.

And Jeremy Davies is fascinating.

`Your work will be very boring,' he tells Lee.

Very entertaining and I had to have three cigerettes due to the erotic nature unfolding before me on the screen.

Instead, we saw in their expression, their real-timed, nuanced reaction; a gradual trangression of shock, fear, confusion, curiosity and as an after-thought, delight or maybe, just maybe, sexual excitement.

Maggie Gyllenhall gives an amazingly raw and compelling performance as the mental-patient-turned-secretary-with-no-apparent-skills-except-the-willingness-to-take-abuse-from-her-self-absorbed-lawyer boss, E.

I just know that if I were the one making this film, I would have finished it with the intense and beautiful simplicity of which it had begun with so the audience as well as the protagonists could experience the climatic experience of two remarkably strange individuals and their equally remarkably strange relationship experiencing some tragic closure.

Edward Grey is as complex as it is intense.

At times the events do not develop at all, twists end up with trivial solutions, and the ending is so dull...

A fascinating treatment of a time-worn message .

More particularly the French flick 'Romance X' in which a girl constantly cheats on her lover without wanting to leave him… Or the Dutch '06', handling about a middle-aged woman who turns to phone-sex in order to break the tedious daily routines.

A unique and engrossing love story...

Slow .

The film is about a couple engaging in S&M sex and what is truly amazing is the film gets away with it.

Other then that the movie is quite boring and forgettable.

However, if you can keep an open mind and are looking for a completely different love story than the formulaic drivel that Hollywood churns out by the handful seemingly every week this is definitely a great movie to experience.

I can't help but be pierced by their fragility, their confusion and their utter sense of helplessness.

As their working relationship develops though, Edward's attitude becomes more and more dominant, eliciting an unexpected response in Lee.

The law office, whilst sumptuous, is ordered and bare (particularly noticeable in the huge empty space in James Spader's room).

Because the audiences' struggling confusion (with what's appropriate or not, what's moral or not) was often echoed by the intuitive performances of its actors (especially from both leads).

All the women are stunning and weight 100 pounds.

It is not an exceptional film overall, but at least for the first three-quarters is disarmingly entertaining, and edge-of-the-seat.

We see Lee having a PASSIONATE fetish relationship with her boss, and then Lee having a BORING, lifeless relationship with her "boyfriend".

Especially enjoyable if you have an appreciation for the S&M sexual paradigm.

The point is, after "9 1/2 weeks" these movies of the kind "cute disturbed girl meets charming disturbed guy, they do wild and odd sex, they regret it, with your choice of happy or unhappy ending" - well, they are quite predictable, aren't they.

A boring movie that isn't worth watching .

Maggy Gylenhaal wonderfully cute, James Spader intriguing and sexy, splendid performance by both actors.

Instead of provoking false emotions, this film is an fascinating insight into the nature of ourselves found in the most unlikely place: a sado masochistic relationship.

However, those who can appreciate the symbiosis in all relationships and who have a taste for aberrant psychodynamics should find "Secretary" a peerless and quirkishly enjoyable romp.

On top of it all, the story is unpredictable and this is something you don't get that often in Hollywood movies anymore.

How banal!

I found her to be very yummy, and while I am repelled by incredibly submissive people, there was something compelling about this character.

The actors do a really good job of making what could be a very boring story come to life and interesting.

There is something about both of them that teeters on the edge between strangely moody and hilariously lighthearted, and they both have the talent to make the combination somehow work.

While not incredibly attractive at the beginning, the painfully slow transmogrification into a more attractive woman(never a stunning beauty as cliché would have it).

I adored Gyllenhaal's deft sleights of hand in conveying Lee's development of character: from the doe-eyed vacancy of an utter misfit girl, to a burgeoning, rather mischievous woman, who comes to terms with her intense sexuality and the way to relate to others.

The movie was dull and anti-climactic.

The first two thirds of this film are wonderful with its cynical view of empty suburban existence and courtship/seduction rituals, plus its satire on job hunting and male dominance in the workplace.

The beginning is intriguing, the ending leaves you with a mixed response.

What is ostensibly described as 'a film exploring the relationship between a dominant man and his submissive secretary' (thank you, Wikipedia) is actually an incredibly quirky, often unsettling, and always unpredictable look at the lives of two deeply troubled individuals, and the story of how they manage to find, amidst the chaos of their individual minds, a welcoming embrace in the chaos of one another.

A dramatic, romance with a wry sense of humor, this movie offers its audience an intriguing look at an alternative approach to pain and love that brings a twinge of heartache and a rise of sexual heat in its soft sadistic way.

The beginning of the film showcases retro bourgeois locales complete with antiquated typewriters and family brick-a-brack which detail the set giving it an anesthetic boredom.

A unique and compelling love story for the open-minded .

For people with behavioral disorders, boring and routine keeps them out of trouble.

Twisted and boring .

Slow-moving and boring.

This was very intriguing in most of the first hour of the film.

Putting this matter aside, "Secretary" is an engaging and entrancing film.

It had to be one of the slowest-moving, most boring films I've ever seen.

This movie is sick, ackward, boring and lame.

The joy of "independent film" is finding something unusual and enjoyable.

It's not about bondage as a sacred act between two people who understand each other, it's a boring case of unnerving domestic violence-come-sexual harassment in an office.

Character development is little to none, dialogue is scarce (and what small amount of dialogue there is is completely vague and passionless), and the cinematography is aesthetically reprehensible, dreary, and monotone, even when the mood of the film is supposed to be on an upswing.

The movie is exciting, perverse, funny, and gripping, all at once.

However, this film is so spectacularly acted by both Gyllenhaal and James Spader that the final nude scene seems kind of pointless and just an excuse to get a gorgeous actress's clothes off.

It is totally unexpected!

The film has an unmistakable feel of a world not far from the mind of Lynch, both through the slow paced and lingering camera work and simplistic dialogue to the propulsive score by Angelo Badalamenti.

He's slower to develop than she is, and to take the final steps towards a real, lasting relationship, he has to be dragged there by the force of Lee's own will.

Worth watching!

Thia movie was extremely slow moving and boring to me.

i actually quite enjoyed it,i thought that Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader (playing his usual off the wall sexual type-which he does so well!!

It has been many years since a movie has had me sitting on the edge of my seat the way "Secretary" had last night.

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.

The problem lies in the fact that having taken a tedious forty five minutes to establish his characters, the director then falls short of exploring his subject any deeper.

It is kinky, sexy, intense and keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole time.

Add in excellent character portrayal (which was completely unexpected from Spader, who I still think of as the `bad guy' from the 80's teen films) and a clever, dark script and you have a movie that is excellent on many levels.

Strange, but enjoyable.

I felt that its pacing was too slow at times.

I have no trouble with Gyllenhaal, who is fascinating, and James Spader who, for once, wasn't some ultra-snotty, profane and smug idiot he usually plays.

It's an intriguing story which makes for a reasonably entertaining film.

Every expression and every line she speaks in every scene is so note perfect that she's very compelling to watch and you really root for her.

I had wanted to see it mainly because it is kind of controversial for being a explicit, graphically sexual film and usually the intense, explicit and extreme intends to impress when it comes to me.

I thought it was a waste of time...

Breathtaking .

i also appreciated the understated yet compelling depiction of the source of lee's cutting in her family discord.

*LOL* I really enjoyed it.

It was so boring, nothing happens in this movie!

How about a working script or was this an exercise to see how slow one can answer a ringing phone or slice your thigh.

Two of us (including myself)liked the film, one thought it dull and boring whilst my other friend disliked it because she found the scenes of S&M distasteful and demeaning to both sexes.

This is a boring film made around the cliché that men secretly would like to have there secretary as a slave.

enjoyed it, even the ending .

It's just a shame that it was executed in such a confusing dumbfounding way.

Generally I find that when movies are slow, they are leading up to something big.

The film takes a while to really build momentum and even after it does there are still noticeable lulls.

A little slow, a little weird, but overall enjoyable throughout.

However, satire notwithstanding, one willingly forgoes demands for realism because the quirky, sadistic alliance makes a more fulfilling and resoundingly interesting life the empty marriages and households secretary Holloway dispiritedly rejects.

All-in-all, those looking to experience something exquisitely choreographed and artistically pushing the envelope that elicits provocative discomfort within us should take the opportunity to watch this fascinating work.

It was TEDIOUS for me to watch, because I kept waiting for something to happen...

stunning .

They approach their various in-office encounters, not with a sense of lustful enthusiasm or even a gleeful naughtiness, but with a pained, empty and dutiful sorrow, all to let us know that their behavior is the result of some sick compulsion.

Overall Delicious but Disjointed in Spots .

Delightfully odd, kind, reassuring and entertaining film .

Its a movie which centralizing on the courtship phase and what i mean by this is in a simple cliché rom-com you have your characters go through this phase (meet - hate each other - courtship - relationship - conflict - resolution - happy ending).

Perfectly wierd and engaging.

Gyllenhaal's performance as the deeply-troubled-but-desperate-to-love Lee is breathtaking, plain and simple.

If you find yourself getting a little bored or irritated or out of sympathy with our hero and heroine in the beginning,as I did, stick it out.

Overall, Secretary is not a masterpiece, but it is a very good portrayal love, and one that is far superior to dull and dreary films such as 'Lost in Translation'.

Maggie Glynthaal is stunning and has arrived as one of the actors of our generation to watch.

As total racially and sexually opposite as I am from him, I find him incredibly fascinating with a dark sexual presence - this was my point of view when I first saw him in "Pretty in Pink" and "Less than Zero".

Boring and slightly amusing .

Also there's a sequence where Spader first spanks her--I almost walked out of the theatre.

Secretary takes a taboo subject which would ordinarily be treated with cliché and instead treats it with intelligence and humor.

This movie was very entertaining, and was even better with the supporting role of Jeremy Davies as Maggie Gylanhaal's boyfriend.

This movie was boring, boring, boring.

An open mind may be needed but an empty heart is the end result; sadly genuine in originality.

After all, he stays a blood sucking lawyer, living in Beverly Hills and she, a housewife and no matter how many roaches she puts in his bed, it turned into a dull relationship of two egotistic people unaware of the outside word.

Black comedy/sexual farce/romantic comedy/dysfunctional sexual melodrama or a dizzying concoction of all with mixed results yet largely favorable due to the undeniably wacky chemistry between recently released nervous breakdown patient and self-inflicted ‘cutter' (fearlessly fierce Gyllenhaal) who takes the eponymous position for a similarly deteriorating lawyer (sexual peccadillo Poster Boy Spader) that results in a kinky and unbelievably poignant relationship that blends sadomasochism, self-reflection and immersed in unsettling moments of unease that only falters in its badly shaped final act.

Drawbacks: The film starts out slow and builds momentum after the first half hour.

The shy secretary who learns to do whatever she can to please her boss, and the older man who has become bored and disillusioned with life--finding out that he can still "live" a little in a kind of perverse relationship with a younger woman.

The plot went from interesting and off-beat to somewhat predictable as the characters struggle to come to terms with their emotions.


Any film about BDSM is at risk of becoming a tedious addition to the world of extremely tedious sexploitation film but the key is that "Secretary" is about the characters.

And I was bored by how I was supposed to go "Oh my god!

The pacing of this movie was so slow, I was mentally screaming for something, ANYTHING to happen.

`I want to be bored,' she answers.

Intense performances all round and the direction is designed to not let up at all.

Certainly an unusual movie, and rather fascinating.

entertaining, no!

Spader's self-doubting and insecure control freak is sharply observed and compelling, scary, funny and pitiable in equal measure, whilst Gyllenhaal's submissive self-harming secretary manages to make a rather odd situation seem like some sort of heroic quest.

It is in this environment of self-harm and boredom with her unfulfilling boyfriend (Jeremy Davies) that Lee increasingly finds herself drawn to her hard-edged boss, forcing a series of sadomasochistic enactments to ensue.

It should be nominalized for the worst movie of the century!

The movie isn't that funny or sexy, but it has an engaging story and interesting characters.

An intriguing love story, wonderfully brought to life by Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader, and a clever, sensitive script.

As you probably already know, this secretary doesn't just push pens and use paper clips, she has another, more exciting capacity as her boss's love object.

The slow pace can even be partly forgiven, due to the fact that the viewer is supposed to witness the GRADUAL progress (if you can call it that) of Gyllenhaal's/Spader's dominant-submissive relationship.

So Slow-moving, I nearly fell asleep!!.

This movie was so slow and repetitive.

james spader rocks just as hard as he did in 'sex, lies and videotape', and maggie gyllenhaal is clearly one of the best actors out there right now, as she is completely unafraid and also completely immersed in her character.

Complete molasses bore fest.

Bored .


For the first few weeks of her new job, Lee goes about her business, relieved that the work is "boring" and "routine".

The fact that *SPOILER AHEAD* that James Spader and Maggie Gyllenhaal are allowed to find each other and live happily ever after was so refreshing that I left the theater on cloud 9.

Intriguing story .

They actually made it entertaining and I was never bored through any part of the movie.

sensually entertaining .

But if you were overflowed with empathy, sexual excitement and joy because two people finally met, shared their love, and could be happy in their own way – you would definitely see the movie more than once, absorbing every delicious detail of the heroes relationship, suffering with them because they are so different, panting with inability to express love, burning with desire, and in the end - reveling in mutual understanding and tenderness.

This film at times was slow.

Lee and Grey are two desperate and lonely people, with physical pain, sexual anger and frustration, and mental confusion trapped, screaming below the surface.

An unusual and absorbing movie .

It's entertaining for it's duration, there are several funny moments and the central message, which states that it's worth going to extremes for the one you love is a worthwhile one for any movie, even if it is someone lost under the premise of the movie.

Stunning performances make Secretary a movie that you won't forget.

During the first half, it's a very entertaining romantic black comedy.

The latter half of SECRETARY is completely dull and irreverant.

Yes it's intriguing.

We also realize that Gyllenhaal's character is actually a very special and unusually discriminating person for whom an average life is deathly boring.

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.

Hot and thrilling.

This is a movie for indie film lovers who like the dramatic scores, and slow set-ups and quirky characters.

The whole mix of innocence, confusion, shock, and determination I found refreshing and intriguing.

If tainted by despair, then the benefit of the doubt will be extended, so that even the most god-awful piece of pretentious junk will get respect from the industry and the critics.

Unfortunately, I found this film to be empty and unchallenging.

Yet in those slow moments I found myself lost in thought.

Although it achieves a bit of a creepy eroticism towards the end, Steven Shainberg's film, centered on the relationship between a submissive secretary (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and her dominating attorney boss (James Spader), commits the cardinal sin of making kinky sex deadly dull and burdened with baggage.

A weird, and towards the end enjoyable drama.

Shainberg's script deserves a lot of praise but his direction is also good in the way that he keeps much of the film ambiguous and intriguing.

I also thought Gyllenhaal's voice to be contrived-sounding, with her wispy, prolonged accents and her supposedly "twisted" laugh, which occurs at "inappropriate times.

Miss Gyllanhaal's expressions of slow anticipation and half-concealed delight are something to see.

its one of the worst movies I've seen this year, and its so boring you almost want to hurt yourself when waiting for it to end.

An intriguing romp through the growth of a woman as she tries to find her right place in the world, Secretary crosses genre boundaries with two excellent performances making it dramatic, comedic and erotic.

The two lead characters are very well written and drawn out.

But for those that didn't understand, the film was pretty dull.

intense, sexual .

The fact that the ending left me with the warm fuzzies is a large part of why I enjoyed it so much.

Far from enjoyable .

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 4: Worth watching.

Maggie Gyllenhaal's Lee on the other hand goes through a stunning transformation from mousy to self-affirming with such aplomb that she was nominated for a Golden Globe the year this film was released.

The whole film is a dark comedy, which explores alternate lifestyles, and as the director says, is Lee's coming of age, from darkness to light.

It was somewhat boring.

an empty experience .

Kinda boring .

However, the film does not deliver, and the main reason I think is the slow and heavy directing hand of Steven Shaiberg, and the awful last 15 minutes, which let you feel that the whole building of the relationship was for nothing - well, for a conventional American happy ending.

This is an original, fresh, darkly comic, provocative, sometimes outrageous, and compelling film.


very sensual and seductive, high rewatch value, and very entertaining.

And for every intriguing SEX, LIES AND VIDEO TAPE, there are films like CARNAL KNOWLEDGE, CRASH (Cronenberg's version) and EYES WIDE SHUT, films that are cold, pompous and stupefyingly dull.

The studios and the producers prefer to be on a safe ground and they spend their money in boring action movies, or in clumsy comedies (does the audience really want that??