EW Staff
April 17, 2002 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Secretary

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
R
runtime
104 minutes
Limited Release Date
09/20/02
performer
Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Spader, Patrick Bauchau, Ezra Buzzington, Jeremy Davies, Stephen McHattie, Jessica Tuck
director
Steven Shainberg
distributor
Lions Gate Films
author
Erin Cressida Wilson
genre
Romance, Erotic, Drama

We gave it an A-

A romantic comedy about a twisted S&M relationship? That’s what director Shainberg is going for in his adaptation of Mary Gaitskill’s short story about a lawyer (Spader) and his new assistant (Gyllenhaal), a just-released mental patient who’s more interested in taking abuse than dictation. ”It’s not ‘The James Spader S&M Movie,’ even though there is that stuff in it,” says Shainberg, whose film scored a jury prize for originality at Sundance. ”It’s a love story. I think it really is a Friday-night date movie.” Even if you aren’t dating a kinky leather fetishist. ”There is an S&M psychological dynamic between them, but rather than being ugly and scary, it’s actually intimate and caring. I know that might sound loopy, [but] this subject matter can be funny and sweet and beautiful and romantic.”

Still, there are some pretty heated scenes of bondage and spanking. What sort of research did Spader do to prepare? ”None,” the actor says. ”I don’t want to tell any tales out of school, and I certainly don’t like to reveal anything about myself in print, but…I think with a subject like this, it is best to look within.” Aha. ”See? I’ve told you too much right there.”

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