you know what’s good about Maggie Gyllenhaal

…other than the fact that her name’s ludicrously hard to spell?


But its because of Secretary, the 2002 movie by little-known director Steven Shainberg, that I’m saying this.

Finally seen yet another in my list of movies-to-be-seen (I will watch Donnie Darko v. soon!), and deeply enjoyed it. Here’s what you get: recently discharged from a mental institution, from a family imposed stay following their near-fatal discovery of her more self-damaging tendencies, Lee Holloway (Maggie-dear) looks for a way to put meaning into her life, and begins to find it in the routine tedium of an administrative job. “It’s boring, very boring. You’re over qualified, really,” says Mr Gray (James Spader), clearly selling the job well. “I like boring,” is Lee’s simple reply, and on they go. What follows is an absolutely bizarre courtship, complicated by Lee’s semi-autistic fiancee (also the victim of a nervous breakdown), and the progression of Mr Gray’s relationship with Lee Holloway from curt boss and fragile employee to (literal) sadist and (literal, but empowered) masochist.

And then they fall in love.

I don’t know how this holds up in terms of authenticity, but the film does what I require from film: it tells a story well, with believeable (albeit improbable) characters and a strong narrative drive, with superb acting on all parts, even the more minor characters. Jeremy Davies, who plays Peter, Lee’s fiancee, provides the same delightfully quirky semi-autistic performance he gave in Solaris, Steve Soderbergh’s remake of the 1972 movie of the same name. Maggie and James are both solid, too.

Highly recommended (though probably not for younger audiences).

[Listening to: Tonight, Tonight – Smashing Pumpkins – Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (04:15)]