November 14th, 2002



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Still of James Spader and Maggie Gyllenhaal in SecretaryJames Spader, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Steven Shainberg in SecretaryMaggie Gyllenhaal at event of SecretaryStill of James Spader and Maggie Gyllenhaal in SecretaryStill of Maggie Gyllenhaal in SecretarySteven Shainberg at event of Secretary

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.

Release Year: 2002

Rating: 7.1/10 (37,828 voted)

Critic's Score: 63/100

Director: Steven Shainberg

Stars: James Spader, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jeremy Davies

Lee Holloway is a smart, quirky woman in her twenties who returns to her hometown in Florida after a brief stay in a mental hospital. In search of relief from herself and her oppressive childhood environment, she starts to date a nerdy friend from high school and takes a job as a secretary in a local law firm, soon developing an obsessive crush on her older boss, Mr. Grey. Through their increasingly bizarre relationship, Lee follows her deepest longings to the heights of masochism and finally to a place of self-affirmation.

Writers: Erin Cressida Wilson, Mary Gaitskill

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 - Paralegal
Sabrina Grdevich - Allison
Lacey Kohl - Louisa
Julene Renee-Preciado - Jessica (as Julene Renee)

Taglines: Assume the position.


Official Website: Official site [France] | Official site [uk] |

Release Date: 14 November 2002

Filming Locations: La Boca Restaurant - 5368 Wilshire, Los Angeles, California, USA

Box Office Details

Budget: $4,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend: $182,306 (USA) (22 September 2002) (11 Screens)

Gross: $9,304,609 (Worldwide)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?

Gwyneth Paltrow was originally cast in the role of Lee Holloway.

Continuity: After Mr Grey sees Lee preparing to self harm and she starts to tidy her desk the strands of hair falling in Lee's face change. First two then only one (when she holds the pencils) then two again.

Dr. Twardon: You know, Lee. There's a long history of this in Catholicism.

User Review

Intriguing story


Secretary is the first of its kind - a very dark love story. First of its kind in that it deals with themes never seen before seen in mainstream Hollywood cinema - S&M, sexual dominance and submission.

Maggie Gyllenhaal is outstanding in a potential minefield of a role - she handles it with dignity and even provides some effective dark humour.

The story here is that her character, Lee, applies for a job as a secretary for the firm owned by James Spader's brilliant Mr Grey. However, Lee has a history of self-harm and masochism and Grey has a dominance complex along with a very sadistic streak. Combine these 2 in theory and you have 2 very happy people. But this is no ordinary love story...

Spader, as stated, is brilliant. He brings an icy steel to the troubled Grey, but also provides a touch of black humour which comes at some great moments to 'release the tension'.

For the themes supplied here you'd probably expect a lot of raunchiness - well there are sexual moments, of course, but there is nothing gratuitous, which is in itself an achievement and well handled.

Overall it's quirky, off-beat, and a little bit different.

Worth a view.


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