Project Valentine, Day 21: Secretary


Oh, thank God I'm done with the Ugh, Let's Watch Julia Roberts block.  I was accused of selecting her worst movies on purpose, but that really wasn't what I set out to do.  I just wanted to choose movies that would fit the romance category, and that I could make work around my Netflix queue!

Anyway, it's behind me now.  Four Roberts movies in a row have left me feeling a little deflated.  How to get my mojo back?  With four days of steamy movies.  Gentlemen, put on your smoking jackets.  Ladies, get out your garter belts.  The next four days at Look What Danny Made! are... Sexytime!

The next few days, I'll be watching some movies I haven't seen before, but I decided to kick things off with one that I liked enough to see again, Secretary.  In this movie, Maggie Gyllenhaal plays Lee Holloway, who has recently been released from a treatment facility where she received therapy for cutting.  She's awkward and uncertain about herself, but learns to type and finds a secretarial job for an attorney named E. Edward Grey (played by James Spader).  Grey is bothered by Lee's typos, habits, and appearance, and corrects her, often sternly.  Instead of withdrawing from the criticism, though, Lee thrives on it.  She begins to excel at her work, while still making intentional mistakes from time to time so that Grey will continue to correct her.  For his part, Grey finds that he is becoming more and more attracted to her submissiveness.  His corrections become more kinky, including spankings.  Eventually, he feels things have gone too far, and fires her in a fit of shame.  This prompts Lee to prove her love, and her obedience, to him once and for all, so that they can live happily (and submissively) ever after.

First things first - this movie covers some ground that not everybody is going to be comfortable with.  It even addresses that in the context of the movie, by having another character confront Lee and tell her to familiarize herself with the feminist struggle.  The dom-sub relationship between Edward and Lee is obviously one that wouldn't work for everybody.  I mean, I'm married to a redhead - there's no chance it's ever happening here!  And lastly, as an example of an employer-employee relationship, it's clearly out of bounds anyplace except in a movie.

That said, where this movie succeeds is in showing how this kind of relationship does work for some people.  Lee never truly comes alive until she has Edward's orders to follow.  She is a broken character from a broken family, and choice causes her to shut down.  Though it seems counter-intuitive, she wants somebody to take the burden of choices off of her, and feels loved as a result.  Their relationship fills a specific need for each of them.

What's interesting is that the submission in this movie is sexualized, but not actually sexual.  Clear as mud, right?  During the movie, Lee has another suitor, a boy who she went to high school with (played by Jeremy Davies).  The movie's only sex scene is between him and Lee, and it's entirely devoid of heat.  Lee and Edward are never shown having sex, but the sparks between them are there in a big way, and when they end up together, there is real love between them.

I don't think that everybody would like this movie.  Even aside from the kink, it's kind of a quirky film.  But if you are willing to accept a different romantic point of view for a while, I think you may enjoy it.  The only real downside of the movie is Jeremy Davies.  Although he's perfect for the role he plays (a greasy, twitchy little spaz), I've never liked the guy very much, namely because he always plays a greasy, twitchy little spaz, often with a dose of cowardice thrown in.

RATING - I give this one five riding crops out of five.

LESSON - Sometimes the hottest things you can do for your relationship have nothing to do with sex.


Misty said...

Hey-- we finally agree on one! This is on of my all-time favorite movies.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review of one of my top 5 all-time favorite movies; James Spader and Maggie Gyllenhaal are brilliant in this Steven Shainberg film! The thing I love about this story is how Lee may be the submissive in this relationship, but by the end of the movie you realize that she is the one who is in charge. Edward is only the dominate because that is the way Lee wants it; the last shot of the movie tells it all.

Will Meekin said...

Liked the movie. Loved the poster.


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