Having heard about the movie, I thought it would play like one of those late-night Skinemax movies, so I definitely had low expectations. The movie is much better than that, although not great by any means.
Kim Basinger is a recently divorced gallery employee – and she plays the vulnerability just right. She’s too trusting and too easily controlled. Mickey Rourke (gosh was he handsome!) enters – a rich, powerful man with a quiet voice (too quiet – the movie seesaws between whispered conversations and blaring bad ’80s music). Their sexual partnership is one that tests how far Rourke will go to dominate and how much Basinger will submit. I found the relationship quite interesting – Basinger letting herself be degraded, despite moments where she fights for more control. She wants them to be a real couple (meet her friends, see where he works), but he resists. He wants her to be an object, a doll he can feed, dress and have sex with.
A lot of current viewers, especially women, aren’t going to find the movie enjoyable because they will be offended by Basinger’s actions. Why let yourself get continually degraded? They’re missing the whole point, thinking the movie is supposed to be sexy – but it’s really more of a character-based drama. She was a successful, intelligent, cultured woman – yet her desires led her deep into this twisted game. She feels “hypnotized.” Rourke takes her shopping for new clothes – a tailored powersuit quite different from the baggy outfits she normally wears. “Aren’t you going to ask me if I like it?” she asks. “No,” he answers. It’s not a make-over, his intention is to create someone entirely different, and I think she enjoyed that to a degree. A movie like “Secretary” explores a domination/submissive relationship that is easier, I think, for women to handle – a young woman with some psychological demons who finds happiness through the relationship. Basinger’s character is the opposite – a woman who becomes more unstable as the relationship goes on.
There are lots of “steamy” sex scenes that seemed fairly un-sexy to me. Messy eating? Sex under a drainpipe in a NY alley? There’s also a lot of cheesy “we run everywhere we go because we’re so in love” moments. However, the movie is an interesting watch because of the well-done characters.