Secretary (the movie) - C/D

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A morally heinous film?

OK, first of all the quip that this film is Shainberg's mysoginistic vision is ridiculous. The screenplay was penned by Erin Cressida Wilson, a sex columnist, erotic playwright and professor at Duke. In an interview, she says, "what excited me most about the story was to make it not a victim tale, but a love story--to not create yet another story of a woman "overcoming" her problems, but a woman embracing her masochism. Steven and I wondered, what would it be like if masochism was not a deviance, but was just a different type of sexuality. Then the thought became, what if this is a "coming out film" for a masochist. What if she stops fighting her masochism, embraces it, defines it, and then is empowered?"

She also claims that Spader was cast largely because he is seen as an object rather than a subject. Shainberg says despite Spader's character being 'sadistic' he is more scared than scary.

John Demetry completely missed the motivations for this film adaptation. Whether or not the film actually succeeds in doing what it is trying to do is another story...

It sounds like the movie was a declawed version of the short story in a lot of ways. Still, this is not Hollywood's fault, as Hollywood refused to put money behind this film for many years. Shainberg only secured funding in New York, where investors are willing to take a few more risks. OK, so maybe if he went to
Paris he would have been able to make the film as a more direct adaptation of Gaitskill's story...but I think it is an interesting and enjoyable interpretation, none the less.

Hell even Gaitskill has likened her portrayal of S/M in Bad Behavior as "playful," and that "A lot of my characters are actually too incompetent to be properly called S/M practitioners..."

While I can't call her up and ask her, previous interviews suggest that she would be happy with a variety of interpretations of her work, including the film version of "Secretary."

"they saw the book in totally different ways than I meant it. Not in a bad way. For example, some people saw the story "Secretary" as a social statement about the
evil of jobs and the horror of sexual harassment. Other people thought it as a story about a young girl being liberated from her tightness by a beneficent old guy." -- source

While the film has its faults (Shainberg admits that most of the characters and events outside of the office were hacked to bits during editing as they just weren't as interesting as what was going on inside the office), Demetry's assessment seems really off-base.

Ryan McKay (Ryan McKay), Wednesday, 26 February 2003 02:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

ten months pass...
It was a great film up until the last 20 minutes or so, which were a complete cop-out.

Jonathan Z., Monday, 5 January 2004 11:33 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

I think the comments made by Shainberg are pretty much exactly how I interpreted the film. I thought she became empowered through her masochism. Masochists are after all the ones who hold the power. I also like the idea of James Spader being an object because he did look really scared rather than scary throughout the film.

I could have done without the voice over, though. I think the whole story could have been told visually instead of erm told directly by MG.

Catty (Catty), Monday, 5 January 2004 11:42 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

three years pass...
Revive, I guess, in that I finally saw this tonight. I think this quote from Gaitskill above:

"A lot of my characters are actually too incompetent to be properly called S/M practitioners..."

...kinda sums up how the movie felt, acknowledging Douglas's note about how movie != short story. It added to the absurd/satirical humor of the film as a whole. In sum: great!

Ned Raggett, Saturday, 31 March 2007 06:20 (eleven years ago) Permalink

But in this morally heinous film


marmotwolof, Saturday, 31 March 2007 06:25 (eleven years ago) Permalink

This film really felt like emo Juvenal, which I have no immediate problem with.

Ned Raggett, Saturday, 31 March 2007 06:28 (eleven years ago) Permalink

"emo Juvenal" is an awesome phrase.

Still my favorite Maggie G performance.

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Saturday, 31 March 2007 12:37 (eleven years ago) Permalink

Even though I "got" the nature of the relationships in the film, it still creeped me the fuck out and I had to leave the home of the person I was watching it with.

Tantrum The Cat, Saturday, 31 March 2007 14:24 (eleven years ago) Permalink

ten years pass...

does anyone remember the scene where james spader's character asks maggie's character to put her hands on the desk, pull down her skirt and undergarment and he proceeded to, as the "lads" say,

play tug o war

i n f i n i t y (∞), Friday, 10 November 2017 18:15 (one year ago) Permalink

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