Cold, warped oddity exploring a failed-suicide victim’s descent to S&M (“How to Come Out as Dominant/Submissive,” “Sadist seeks masochist”).I’m reminded of the Korean S&M movie from a couple seasons back, Lies, more specifically how it began with a bang — excuse the pun — but comfortably settled down for a spell of monotony. Similarly, Secretary gets off with initial curiosity (Maggie Gyllenhaal’s office prep, replete with a neck-chain to arm’s-length cuffs), but rewinds to unsatisfactorily work up the tolerance for spanking and so on. Gyllenhaal’s diffidence works in her favor, as it is fitting of her character, but the worst form of distraction comes from James Spader, to this day using the indistinguishable character that is his career. From movie to movie he remains the same, always constant, never changing. Director Steven Shainberg lacks the collective quirk to set this apart from even the most banal of sex-themed films. The subject matter isn’t fresh or trendy, but rather a page from the daring, vile days of John Waters, only this imitation is played for kitsch. And if play isn’t the correct verb, considering that kitsch was what Waters was after, then Shainberg improperly and mistakenly employs it, and in all the wrong places.
With Leslie Ann Warren, Jeremy Davies and Amy Locane.[Not to be bothered.]