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63

Generally favorable reviews - based on 39 Critics What's this?

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8.1

Universal acclaim- based on 99 Ratings

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  • Starring: ,
  • Summary: A powerful and unique love story that toys with our expectations of love, sexuality and intimacy. (Lions Gate)
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Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 25 out of 39
  2. Negative: 5 out of 39
  1. Reviewed by: Staff (Not Credited)
    91
    There's a word for an actress who can go from nervous to winsome to raunchy to romantic in a heartbeat and get you to adore her the whole time. The word is star.
  2. Secretary is one of the best of a growing strain of daring films -- "Bliss," "The Lifestyle," "Satin Rouge" -- that argue that any sexual relationship that doesn't hurt anyone and works for its participants is a relationship that is worthy of our respect.
  3. 80
    The unnecessarily emphatic ending suggests that Secretary's makers are a bit anxious to demonstrate they've whipped a potentially grotesque, spanks-for-the-memories scenario into the season's most romantic love story -- which is, in fact, what they've done.
  4. Pulls off a neat trick: It's a poignant, sweet-natured love story in which what most of us would call kinky sex - domination, submission, some enthusiastic spanking - is featured prominently, but not pruriently.
  5. 70
    Secretary, like the type of relationship it explores, is not for everybody. But it does what good films do best; that is to provoke us, push our buttons, make us think and maybe even entertain us in the process.
  6. The movie works hard to be naughty, but its sub-David Lynch style doesn't quite click. Gyllenhaal is excellent and Spader effectively adds to his roster of creepy characters.
  7. It provokes nothing but yawns, and the sex it explores is stuff everybody knows about and says, "So what?"

See all 39 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 20 out of 22
  2. Negative: 1 out of 22
  1. AnnaC.
    Oct 9, 2005
    10
    James Spader was exceptional and it took a subject that isn't all that uncommon and made it mainstream. This isn't hardcore BDSM, James Spader was exceptional and it took a subject that isn't all that uncommon and made it mainstream. This isn't hardcore BDSM, it's just an alternative way to enjoy love. Expand
  2. MarkJ.
    Jan 2, 2007
    9
    The Secretary takes all of the standard 'love story' cliches and explores them with more honesty and meaning than any genre The Secretary takes all of the standard 'love story' cliches and explores them with more honesty and meaning than any genre standard. Spader is perfect in his role; memories of his dysfunctional sexual nature from 'Sex, Lies and videotape' and 'Crash' had me convinced of his 'perversion' from the start. Maggie Gyllenhaal owns the screen with every sultry moment, and her pairing with Spader works perfectly throughout. Whilst the closing minutes of the film seem to go against the unfolding plot of a tragic love story, it works perfectly in achieving its' aim of showing us that there really is someone out there for everybody. Truly memorable performances and a truly touching film. Expand
  3. Nov 13, 2011
    8
    Excellent movie! Didn't know what to expect when starting this film, however very pleasantly surprised. Gyllenhaal is amazing and so isExcellent movie! Didn't know what to expect when starting this film, however very pleasantly surprised. Gyllenhaal is amazing and so is Spader, their sheer intensity during some of the scenes makes you shudder. However, I believe that this film is a very powerful metaphor for finding oneself and true love, and can't be missed by the avid movie watcher. Especially someone who likes Gyllenhaal from other pieces. The S&M is not pornographic, rather personal. I highly rate this film, good plot, fantastic characters and actors, excellent movie! Expand
  4. ScottM
    Nov 28, 2005
    8
    More proof that Maggie Gyllenhaal is one of the most talented, alluring, and underrated actesses working today.
  5. Jul 21, 2012
    8
    In Secretary, Maggie Gyllenhaal gives the performance of her career as Lee Holloway, a meek and introverted young woman who gets a job as aIn Secretary, Maggie Gyllenhaal gives the performance of her career as Lee Holloway, a meek and introverted young woman who gets a job as a secretary for an oddball small-time lawyer (James Spader), which leads to a less-than-conventional sexual relationship. It's a sweet and engaging tale of two cripplingly shy people, who are unable to communicate with each other at all other than though BDSM. The film insightfully discusses intimacy, desire, sexual fetishism and depression, and manages to strike just the right balance between darkness and light-heartedness in writer/director Steven Shainberg's brilliant screenplay and complex characterisation. Both Lee and E. Edward Grey are interesting, layered and fully-rounded characters with real (if unusual) chemistry, and it's genuinely involving to see how their relationship progresses and how they conquer their fears and evolve as people throughout the film. It is only the last few minutes of the film that the narrative begins to wobble, delivering an ending that is a little too slushy and formulaic for this otherwise pleasantly original film. Even with this jarring change in tone in the final act, Secretary is a quirky, well-written and entertaining comedy-drama that bravely tackles a taboo subject in a way that only independent cinema can. Expand
  6. Oct 7, 2012
    8
    Despite it's unusual skew, Secretary is actually one of the most romantic movies I've seen. Sure, the characters are complete S&M nutjobs, butDespite it's unusual skew, Secretary is actually one of the most romantic movies I've seen. Sure, the characters are complete S&M nutjobs, but hey, they need happiness too. It's also a fun ride from start to finish because you're never sure where Gyllenhaal's and Spader's relationship is going. I honestly thought he might kill her! Kudos to both the main actors for top-notch performances, too. Expand
  7. Sep 5, 2014
    5
    Well, as a secretary myself in an obscure company that makes bobble heads I can identify with the kind of situations this movie talks about.Well, as a secretary myself in an obscure company that makes bobble heads I can identify with the kind of situations this movie talks about. Having to retype a letter all day because I keep making mistakes because the only reason I have the job is because I'm pretty not because I'm able to do anything properly behind a desk is just like the movie. I also get my bottom smacked when I make mistakes. It happens at least once a week. Far from it being a crude sexist experience it can be the highlight of my day-especially when its done in front of other people with my skirt off showing my bum in pantyhose to anyone in the room while my boss fondles himself with his free hand. What more could a girl want. Expand

See all 22 User Reviews

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