Since Ms. Gyllenhaal is featured in PLOT PUZZLE, I decided that Secretary would be the perfect choice for Eye Candy Movie of the Month. Secretary endears its more aesthetically inclined audience with palatial and sumptuous surroundings. You are led into the dark green and growing world that is Mr. Grey's (James Spader) office, where orchids are meticulously cared for and nurtured, how Lee Holloway (Maggie Gyllenhaal) longs to be. It is here that she can become a flower, or a sex goddess, and leave behind the drab past of alcoholic fathers and perfect sisters. She is his secretary. On her hands and knees, or typewritering away, she can forget the masochistic urge to hurt herself and the time spent lost in her own cuts and bruises. As Mr. Grey lays her down on a bed of moss, you wonder where the hell this office is, and how do I get there?
The idea of bringing natural elements inside a working office is crucial to the film not only visually, but for the "growth" of these characters. Lee has never really taken time to walk through a park before, or sit outside on the grass. We can assume that she's always been too busy trying to track down what dive bar her father was slumped in, or what mall her mom was aimlessly wandering. Upon entering Mr. Grey's law office though, she is given permission to be confident, and take time for herself.
She is surrounded every day by calming forest green and amber walls, hardwood floors, and a literal garden of eden. Gyllenhaal's standard hunched shoulder look starts off as a sign of Lee's demure innocence, but quickly becomes a tool she uses in her plans for seducing Mr. Grey. She crawls through his Garden like a ladybug who'll either be placed safely away from harm, or crushed under his dress shoe heel. Grey stalks through his self-made jungle like a restrained lion, debating whether or not to eat something. This jungle, predator/prey scenario blankets the film, however it's never quite clear who's actually the predator.
Gyllenhaal and Spader are both incredibly well suited to these parts, almost so much that it hurts to think of other people playing these characters. Spader brings a surprising amount of sweetness to the part, allowing you to care about his "issues" instead of detest him. He shocks you at points, but always returns to an odd, though lovable man. No matter what other films she goes on to do, be them good or bad, Maggie will always be Lee Holloway to me, and I think that's all I need to say about her performance. The film may have gotten a lot of press due to its "fringe" topic, but ultimately it's a very colorful fairy tale, masking itself as a sexual thriller. Every set dressing and every color is gorgeous, from Lee's gift bag of donuts for Mr. Grey, to the ribbons and stickers she covers her knives with. Every frame is beautifully articulated through color, and that's why Secretary is February's Eye Candy Movie of the Month!