Before there was “Fifty Shades Of Grey,” there was a little movie called “Secretary.”  Maggie Gyllenhaal plays a psychologically troubled, young woman who gets a job as a secretary for a lawyer named Mr. Grey, played by James Spader.  Spader, it turns out, has his own demons; and slowly both he and Gyllenhaal engage in a BDSM (Bondage/Discipline, Dominant/submissive, Sado/Masochist) relationship that can either lift them out of their troubles or add to their mental grief.

Gyllenhaal and Spader work great together in this movie.  She gives a great performance as a shy, unsure woman who becomes confident and certain of what she wants and needs as she explores, understands, and accepts her sexuality.   Spader rivals Gyllenhaal’s performance, adding those little, quirky touches that makes the character more real; and showing the audience what it is that torments him: not able to accept and understand his sexual desires, leading to self-loathing and an unhappy, unsatisfying life.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Secretary” is the scene when Gyllenhaal sits on Spader’s desk, palms down on the desk, and waits as ordered for Spader to return, however long that may be.  Her ex-fiancee asks why she is doing this, and Gyllenhaal tells him that she wants to do it.  This is very important, because this gives insight into the true nature of a D/s relationship.  It is the submissive that has most of the power, because the submissive is the one who sets the parameters of what can be done to him or her.  The submissive chooses his/her partner; the submissive can walk away anytime he/she wants if things aren’t working out.  So despite how vicious or degrading things can look — for example, the submissive being whipped to the point of physical injury — what is being done is consensual.

“Secretary” rings true for me in the way it explains a Dominant/submissive relationship — each relationship has its own quirks and set of rules, of course; but in general, the director and writers of “Secretary” got it right.  For those looking for a kinky movie, or a dark comedy, or a love story, hey, “Secretary” has it all.

— M