Find it tough to imagine a warm-hearted romantic-comedy about S&M? You don’t have to because it’s right here in this brilliant indie by writer-director Steven Shainberg. Maggie Gyllenhaal plays Lee, a study in dowdy repression who gets secret release through self-mutilation. Recently released from a mental institution and still living with her parents in her mid-20s, Lee takes a job as a legal secretary. James Spader—no stranger to kinky roles; see sex, lies and videotape and Crash—is her uptight boss, who covers up for his painful shyness by wearing the role of dominance as one might a Halloween costume. Based on a short story by Mary Gaitskill, a writer known for plumbing the depths of the sexual psyche, this is a dark satire that carefully teeters between humor and pathos. It might also be considered in bad taste for viewers who like their films safe, but it will reward those who appreciate a challenge. Gyllenhaal and Spader both give amazing performances.


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