Secretary (2002)

In one way or another, I’ve always suffered. I didn’t know why, exactly. But I do know that I’m not so scared of suffering now. I feel more than I’ve ever felt, and I’ve found someone to feel with, to play with, to love, in a way that feels right for me. I hope he knows that I can see that he suffers, too. And that I want to love him.

This film has been sitting on my watchlist for the longest time but I kept on procrastinating because I thought this was going to be some weird, niche film about strange characters doing strange things.

And it really did turn out to be a weird, niche film about strange characters doing strange things.

And I absolutely loved it.

Forgive me, but I feel that the easiest way for me to express why I loved this film, is to compare it against 50 Shades of Grey, since both stories have a vaguely similar premise and most people already are familiar with the trilogy by E L James. Those who know of both Secretary and 50 Shades would naturally put them side by side for comparison, although it’s a no-brainer when it comes to deciding which one was the better film.

So anyway, here are some of my thoughts:

E L James created two characters that are unrealistically and predictably perfect. They aren’t unique so there’s no intrigue, and we can’t relate to them either because somehow their flaws weren’t really flaws at all.

But in Secretary, we see two strange people who clearly didn’t fit in the world they lived in. There’s nothing materialistic about this film, it’s downright honest. Grey and Lee are obviously weird with quirky tendencies and unsettling obsessions. Granted, Maggie Gyllenhaal (Lee) is cute and James Spader (Grey) kinda looks like the prince from Beauty and the Beast, but they weren’t drop-dead-gorgeous material and they certainly weren’t stereo-typically flawless. Strangely awkward in every perfect way, Lee and Grey were two very endearing characters.

SO MUCH of Fifty Shades was dedicated to describing sex in painful detail, when they could have been used for better purposes, like character development.

In Secretary, I think there was only one sex scene, and it wasn’t even between the two lead characters. Whenever there are scenes involving anything remotely related to sex or sexual intentions between them, it’s always done thoughtfully with a clear purpose. Every scene contributes significantly to their character’s development, rather than being just another racy scene to give the audience crappy cheap thrills.

Thus in Secretary, more effort was put into building the characters properly, which I appreciate a lot because it makes the characters more enigmatic and unforgettable, which then translates to a more meaningful movie experience. The moment the film ended I immediately missed watching Lee and Grey, and I still do miss them very much.

Looking back at how much I loved Elle and The Handmaiden, I might have a thing for films with slightly morbid themes. If you think odd characters with strange inclinations are fascinating, then I highly recommend Secretary. It’s a bit of a satire on BDSM, a bit of a feel-good romantic comedy. Gyllenhaal and Spader might irk you at first but they will gradually charm your hearts with their quirks, and you’d find yourself in love by the end of it.

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