For most people "Secretary" may be a "love it" or "hate it" movie. Let's face it -- a dark, quirky, sado-masochistic romantic comedy isn't for everyone. But for me it wasn't the subject matter that ultimately defeated the film's captivating performances and absorbingly twisted story. It was the unfulfilling, incongruous, "wait a second, did I miss something?" ending that confirmed what I suspected all along: "Secretary" only has one-half of a story arc.
The enticing Maggie Gyllenhaal (sister of Jake and his co-star in "Donnie Darko") gives a deeply immersed, credibly transitional performance as Lee Holloway, a fragile, frumpy, habitually self-mutilating psychiatric patient recently released from a mental hospital.
Back home with her drunken father and clingy, angry, victimized mother, she quickly slips into compulsive old patterns of self-abuse (she has a homemade kit full of drill bits and porcelain ballerinas with sharpened toes she digs into her thighs). But all that begins to change when she lands a secretarial job in the opulently 1970s-styled office of peculiar, soft-spoken E. Edward Gray (James Spader) -- a lawyer with an erratic temper and kinky peccadilloes.
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Shallow SoCal sorority bimbo Elle Woods is supposed to be, like, totally smarter than she looks in "Legally Blonde," a paint-by-numbers big screen sitcom about a ditzy coed who follows her snooty, upper-crust ex to Harvard Law to prove herself worthy and win him back.
But while Elle is played with irresistibly bouncy ebullience by the wonderfully daft Reese Witherspoon ("Election," "Freeway"), the movie never provides any evidence of her supposed smarts. She just gets lucky a lot, like when her knowledge of hair care helps save an innocent murder defendant in a big case she has no business handling as an intern at a big law firm.
Such simplistic, ain't-it-wacky solutions to life's dilemmas are the driving force of this pastel colored picture that is funny from time to time, but is also weighed down with trite "have faith in yourself" messages, as if it's some kind of after school special.
Continue reading: Legally Blonde Review