The Secretary

During my lunch break I came across a February’s, TV guide, on the coffee table so I just went thru the pictures as I wasn’t interested what was being transmitted in the air at that time as it was well almost the end of March and you know on TV guides since there are a lot of listings, the editor usually only allows a couple of lines to describe the pick of the day one's eyes tend to fall on what I like to call Le Locandine. The pick of the day on one particular day was the movie ‘The Secretary’.

Don’t tell what was it that mostly caught my eyes since there was only a small picture of a very naive girl in her 20's and the lines said that it is a romantic film with a twist between two mentally disturbed people. I don’t know if it was the twist or that the film speaks about disturbed people that tricked my mind but I remember something made me take note of the title to check if it was available from one of the DVD rental houses near where I live.

When i gave up managing to find this particular title as nobody seemed to have heard about it, I decided to get it off Amazon and at first i was a little scared if I'll ever manage to receive it safe at home by post due to the strict censorships for the reasons that it is rated 18, it is made by an independent and not famous film producer and on the front written in bold and large red font letters there is written ‘So sensuous, taboo, sado-masochistic, steamy, raw and seductive is "The Secretary" that it goes beyond the red light of "no,".
Then out of the blues I received a little note telling me that I received a parcel earlier on last week and that already made me think that I will end up without my movie but funnily enough I picked up without any problems my DVD from the new office at marsa of maltapost, after I rang the number I had to ring on the note for almost 20 times without any answer I was told by a young lady out of breath or at that time she was munching her ftira, that I had to go to the main post office in marsa. (I am still wondering what was the reason that maltapost parcels division was moved from the original office in marsa with parking space to an aviation garage behind the pasta factory and like most thing in Malta it is something which I can’t understand, unless maltapost believes that very soon the Maltese people will be using their service to transport aeroplane parts). Another thing that made me wonder was why I didn’t receive the DVD at home when I paid £4stg. just for postage from Holland to Malta (one have to keep in mind that the DVD cost just $5.99 dollars) or at least why is it that I couldn't pick it up from my local post office just down the road.

Back to the film because I better stop sounding like a parliament reply from the opposition’s desks.
Even though some people might be put off by the idea of such a film because of the words written on the front page of the DVD, it is only when watching it, you can see it does makes sense to the two main characters. They let their emotional needs awake each other. They open up their vulnerabilities so well that it's not wrong to say that they are having a relationship and what they are doing with each other is acceptable, because both want what the other is giving them.

Lee Holloway (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is a young woman in her 20's whose turbulent home life has gotten the best of her emotional state. This resulted in her admittance into mental hospital. Once her time is completed, Lee is scheduled to be released on the day of her sister's wedding. Peter, an old high school acquaintance, becomes a crush for her, but Lee is just not sure if he's the right guy for her and she doesn't want to settle just to have just a "somebody" in her life.

Living at home is still on the unsteady side with the abuse and alcoholic problems presented by her parents, Joan and Burt Holloway as well as Lee's need to inflict pain on herself. The pain seems to release the built up hurt of the troubled existence surrounding her.

As Lee tries to break out of her own uneven and frantic atmosphere, she looks ahead to the prospects of finding a job. Her skill lies in her ability to type at high speeds with hardly any errors. Her first interview is with Mr. Grey (James Spader); a lawyer with an odd first impression where he looks stressed out and asks personal questions about Lee's love life. The job interview is practically killed by Mr. Grey saying how terribly uninteresting it would be to work for him; however, Lee is so taken and thrilled with the whole possibility of working that it happily shocks Mr. Grey in a mysteriously bewildering way.

As time passes both Lee and Mr. Grey form an unorthodox, highly erotic, sado-masochistic relationship. Their pleasures are rewarded by how the other responds to the excitement of this flirty and sexual interaction; although, they never have their encounters consummated in the traditional way.

One of Mr. Grey's quirky obsessions is nit picking over tiny spelling errors that seem to arouse the need to discipline Lee in ways that make her more motivated and free to express herself thoroughly. He is able to give Lee, for the first time, an opportunity to gain control over her own actions and decision making without anybody else's help. Lee, in time, will also reach a place in Mr. Grey's demon hideaway, deep inside his own untouchable psyche, and perhaps alleviate his pain that is unable to surface.

I've never seen James Spader so powerfully creepy, erratic, sensuous, and brilliant as he was in this movie where he took this character inside himself and let the personality stew and simmer until his boiling point was magnified. Then, he gently brought it down to a gentleness that made you see the true fun-loving person that he really was. Included, is his ability to maintain a character with such freakiness, smoothness, and a sexual tension, so heated with desire that it was incredibly good to watch!

Maggie Gyllenhaal was exceptional in a daring and tricky role. She demonstrated the great ability of controlling her character's moods and making it believable. Watching her progress and appearance change throughout the movie gives you the chance to see who she really wants to be and what she's willing to do to keep it open and fresh. A special note is at the end scene where her face just speaks to you about all the swarms of naughtiness she has in store for Mr. Grey.

The song that mostly impressed me in this film was "I'm Your Man" by Leonard Cohen. His rough and sensuous tones give sexiness and fun to the plan of action that you can only assume is going to let loose soon after the scene has finished. The music in general was quite pleasing. It set up many engaging scenes that gave this movie even more intelligent and provocative subject matter to soak in.

This is a completely original and highly unusual story of two people who find love and gratification with one another in a kinky and twisted way. It's as sexy as it is healthy. This encounter is an outlet for both to express their inner desires and keeps them fulfilled in ways they never thought possible. A beautiful love story. It's quite unusual subject matter (the nature of their relationship) may cause some viewers to discard the film, which is a shame 'cause this film is really nothing but a little story about two people, who feel alienated and alone, who find each other. The need to find a kindred spirit is something we all want, no matter how different we feel we are from the rest.

Their existence is outside of the world of everyday people: living their lives, making a career, and living among others. In a quiet, yet typical, environment they keep those home fires burning!

The acting is superb. James Spader is fantastic as the troubled lawyer and Maggie Gyllenhaal role looks like it was especially made for her. This is a well written, well directed and moving film that is sure to delight all those who are open minded to some unusual twists in an otherwise universal love story. I give it nine out of ten because it is another film which is worth watching and collecting. Looking forward to get the DVD ‘Little Children’ and ‘In the Bedroom’ by Todd Field, but I’ll talk about these two other masterpieces some other time.

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