Assume the position
Assume the position


D: Steven Soderbergh

Lions Gate/Twopoundbag/Double A (Steven Shainberg, Andrew Fierberg & Amy Hobby)

US 2002

104 mins


W: Erin Cressida Warren [based on the short story 'Bad Behavior' by Mary Gaitskill]

DP: Steven Fierberg

Ed: Pam Wise

Mus: Angelo Badalamenti

James Spader (E. Edward Grey), Maggie Gyllenhaal (Lee Holloway), Jeremy Davies (Peter), Lesley Ann Warren (Joan Holloway), Patrick Bauchau (Dr. Twardon)

This erotically-charged black comedy studies the kinky relationship between a sexually dominant lawyer and his submissive secretary.

Socially awkward, emotionally sensitive and youngest of a hugely dysfunctional family, bookish secretary Lee Holloway starts a new job for perfectionist lawyer E. Edward Grey, whose sexual urges are stirred by her obedience and his disciplinary methods (which would be unlikely to carry him favour at an employment tribunal). 

However, Lee feels empowered by the treatment, gains confidence and desists from self-harming, which would be her usual way of coping with stress.

The film was hugely controversial at the time of release, with criticisms of sexism, but considering the subject material, it's actually very tastefully handled, with an excellent lead performance from Maggie Gyllenhaal, who brings humanity and sexuality to a very challenging role.

It's almost ironic that just over a decade later, a similar theme of sado-masochism would be used in the Fifty Shades Of Grey series of books and be considered romance. At least the relationship presented here is a two-way street, with both consenting adults approving of their mutual desires.


Maggie Gyllenhaal in Secretary
Maggie Gyllenhaal in Secretary