Secretary." It happens every so often that I read or watch something that just makes perfect sense to me on a nearly physical level. The first time someone asked me what I thought of the film I said, "It's a fairy tale written just for me." Which I suppose could be taken a number of ways. When the credits rolled it seemed that, of all the romances I'd seen on film this one felt the truest.
Quick synopsis: Maggie Gyllenhaal plays Lee Holloway, a young woman recently released from an in-patient mental health program. While trying to reintegrate into her old life and perhaps even improve on it she gets herself a job. That job is with James Spader's character, Mr. Grey, an exacting local lawyer. Over time they discover they have something in common.
OK, from here on out I can't promise there won't be spoilers.
Similar to some of what I said about re-meeting Mollena, the best part of Secretary is how accurately we see the strength and power in submission. That thing the characters have in common is BDSM. When they are true to the parts of themselves that feed off their dominance or submission they are happy, productive, able members of society. When they hide their core needs they are klunky and uncomfortable, they don't fit in the air space allotted them by the world.
Lee isn't a gorgeous woman objectively. She becomes shy and retiring when trying to hide her need to submit. When she's able to let that shine through she can do anything, ask for anything, be anything she wants to be. It's not Mr. Grey who transforms her into someone beautiful and intelligent, it's finally insisting on showing her true self that does. No one else could possibly do that for her. The writers and director never once stray into a construct that suggests women are weak or easily manipulated.
Now, I'm no expert on the BDSM scene so I suppose there might be things that are improperly depicted or even offensive to real life practitioners. I sure hope not, though, because this life style is the perfect framework for a story about finding common ground and being brave enough to show one's tender underbelly to the world.
What's your favorite mainstream movie with sexual content?