Comfortable and Furious


Directed by Steven Shainberg

Written by Shainberg and Erin Cressida Wilson

Based on a short story by Mary Gaitskill

– Maggie Gyllenhaal as Lee Holloway
– James Spader as E. Edward Grey
– Jeremy Davies as Peter
– Amy Locane as Theresa Holloway
– Lesley Ann Warren as Joan Holloway

Victoria may or may not like getting spanked…

Based on the short story by Mary Gaitskill, the film Secretary attains a certain level of artistic precedent that few films before it has. Especially S&M flicks. Perhaps that is why it won the Sundance Special Jury Prize for Originality.

Lee Holloway, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal comes home from a stay at a mental institution the day of her sister’s (Amy Locane) wedding. Being back in a dysfunctional environment with her neurotic mother (Lesley Ann Warren) and alcoholic father (Stephen McHattie) is enough to make Lee to go back to her old ways; namely mutilating herself.

Cutting and burning herself allows the inner pain to rise to the surface. Lee finds that watching it heal is cathartic. This point is wonderfully brought to light by her ever so fucked up, controlling and dominating boss Mr. E. Edward Grey (James Spader). While Lee’s secretarial job is a menial one that consists of her taking orders and doing crazy, deviant shit to suffice Mr. Grey’s desires, it’s Lee’s pride and joy that shines through. She will do anything to keep this joy alive. The first arc of the film takes place when E. Edward spies Lee on a date with her boyfriend Peter (Jeremy Davies).

Unbeknownst to Lee, Mr. Grey starts to fall for her. At the same time, he catches her cutting herself up. As the two start to play the game of master and slave (he is the master, she is the slave), Lee begins to fall under her boss’s spell. So much so that he will not allow her to hurt herself anymore. He will spank her, in fact, he will do whatever sadistic thing he pleases – but Lee is no longer allowed to hurt herself.

Sick, huh? Wait till you see the scene where he drops a load on her back and immediately tells her to get back to work. Is this the quintessential relationship? No! But is it the right relationship for the two of them? I think so. This film teaches us that love does not mean the same thing for all people. The fact that relationships vary from person to person and couple to couple is examined by the Secretary. Who is to say what is right for you and yours?

Don’t go in to this film expecting to see a John Cusack or Julia Roberts feel good movie, Spank me if you must, because for me Secretary pushes all the right keys.

Okay, now I get to rant.

First of all, I had to say that I had reservations when I heard that Maggie Gyllenhaal was in this movie. I really think her brother Jake is great. The two of them could be another great sibling pair like Luke and Owen Wilson. I believe with Maggie and Jake though; the Wilson’s have met their match. She is great, vulnerable and really one to watch.

James Spader, you rock, you fucking rock, period.

May I also say I loved the casting of Lesley Ann Warren as Lee’s Mom. She’s as good as Shelley Long at portraying neurotic housewives. I haven’t seen Amy Locane since Airheads, nice touch. One more thing – Jeremy Davies, I loved him in this and I loved him in Spanking the Monkey (plug).

[Ed Note: It must be pointed out that Davies played possibly the most annoying character in the history of cinema in the Wim Wenders/Mel Gibson/Bono debacle, The Million Dollar Hotel]

Now for my praise of the cinematographer, I loved the split shot of the pool, half in half out, high five! Milk bath, it was symbolic for me, Lee takes them in two scenes and in most movies, they will give a bubble bath to block the private parts. In this film she fully shows all parts, butt, bush and boobs, but in the bath scenes, I believe the film makers wanted to focus on her face and that was a nice touch with a milk bath, she was not a bubble girl.

Oh my g-d, I can’t find any valid complaints!

[Another Ed Note: Is it cute or strange that Victoria doesn’t even bat an eye telling us that Spader “drops a load” on Gyllenhaal’s back, but then she writes God as g-d? What a good Jew]

Special Ruthless Ratings:

  • Did I find Secretary weirder than Jacob’s Ladder: Yes
  • Number of times I said, “Hey is that the Oz Perkins guy from Legally Blonde?”: 4
  • Number of times I said, “I wonder how I could get as skinny as Maggie?”: The whole movie
  • Reasons I wanted to cry but then started to laugh: 6
  • Number of times I started to laugh but then realized that no one else was; therefore, confirming I am one sick girl: 15
  • Amy Locane’s career most resembles: A bull ride