Screened as part of NZIFF 2003

Secretary 2002

Directed by Steven Shainberg

USA In English
111 minutes 35mm



Steven Shainberg
Andrew Fierberg
Amy Hobby


Erin Cressida Wilson, Steven Shainberg. Based on the short story by Mary Gaitskill


Steven Fierberg


Pam Wise
Jay Rabinowitz


Angelo Badalamenti


James Spader (E. Edward Grey)
Maggie Gyllenhaal (Lee Holloway)
Jeremy Davies (Peter)
Patrick Bauchau (Dr Twardon)
Stephen McHattie (Burt Holloway)
Oz Perkins (Jonathan)
Jessica Tuck (Tricia O’Connor)
Amy Locane (Lee’s sister)
Lesley Ann (Joan Holloway)Warren Sylv
Lesley Ann Warren (Joan Holloway)
Mary Joy (Sylvia)
Michael Mantell (Stewart)
Sabrina Grdevich (Allison)
Lily Knight (Paralegal)


Sundance, Locarno, Toronto, London 2002


“This wicked little black comedy, adapted from a short story by Mary Gaitskill, chronicles the perverse attraction between a young typist (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and her uptight boss (James Spader), a sadomasochistic tango that strikes unexpected chords in each character. The young woman is a self-mutilator, and when the attorney spanks her for a minor mistake, she knows she’s found the right job. The film’s romantic conceit turns on the decidedly un-PC notion of female submissiveness, but director Steven Shainberg twists the story into a sly and stylized study of two lonely souls who come to realize they’re made for each other.” — Ted Shen, Chicago Reader 

Secretary is a genial romance that maintains a surprisingly buoyant tone throughout, notwithstanding some of the writers’ sporadic dips into pop Freudianis… The relationship that matters, that gives the film its spark, its cheeky humor and its reason for being, is the one Lee develops with her new boss, Mr Grey (Spader), an obsessive-compulsive lawyer with a fanatical loathing of typing errors and a predilection for sexual dominance. It’s a match made in dysfunctional heaven. Spader is very fine as a spookier, more twitchy version of the shuttered character he played in Steven Soderbergh’s sex, lies and videotape… But it’s Gyllenhaal who makes Secretary work, saving it from titillation and sordidness as she turns a dormouse into a revelation.” — Manohla Dargis, LA Times