A good old-fashioned mental health breakdown / inappropriate workplace behavior / BDSM love story, made completely charming because of the freakishly adorable Maggie Gyllenhaal as first-time job seeker Lee Holloway.
She presents, to put it politely, some major issues. But so does Mr. Grey (James Spader), who needs someone to get his coffee, and to type every word correctly, and to spank.
Spader chews some scenery (but only after the job interview, a treasure trove of ill-appropriate questions in a tightly measured manner). It's Gyllenhaal's fractured attempts at connection and disconnection that carry it. And the physical comedy: her dumpster-dive is pure comedy gold.
Lee Holloway already knows pain. She has all-too-willingly inflicted it upon herself in attempt to feel something. Mr. Grey only knows what makes his own self tock, and doesn't really think about how to please Miss Holloway, or anyone for that matter. He's like this all the time.
Surprisingly, the heroine and anti-hero are the ones who develop a true intimacy. Discuss:
There's a conventional rom-com love story here, but the conventional love story is not what's handed to us, because she wants to feel hurt but also to know it's normal to feel that.
When she's folding laundry with her conventional love story boyfriend (the one you would think you're supposed to root for because he's not an evil clown of a boss), she can't even bring herself to say the names of body parts without embarrassment. And to no one's surprise, they develop no intimacy.
After they have sex, he asks meekly, "Did I hurt you?" When she pauses and sighs, "nooo...," her disappointment fills the screen.
Back at work, she is given strict orders, disobeys to push the boundaries, tests her own limits ... and is accepted and loved for who she truly is.
And we witness true intimacy.
And also, Maggie Gyllenhaal's naughty bits. Happy Shiny Couples, beware.