I watched Secretary this evening. I think it succeeded as a piece of artwork, 'cause it certainly has me thinking now. I didn't love it like I loved some movies, but it's not your typical film.
One of my big problems with it is that it seemed to reduce every character to his particular outrageous psychological complex. It's not like the movie was about one crazy person—everyone is fucked up in some way. And more than that, everyone is defined by his disorder. Lee (the female lead, played by the lovely Maggie Gyllenhaal) might be the exception, but they really cheat in making her come to life, because she does a number of voice-overs throughout the film. Then at the end it feels like they try to make the two main characters real people by giving them some seemingly slapped-on personality.
I don't even know if it worked as a study of a sado-masochistic couple. It never drew me in enough to let me identify with the characters. Lolita (the book, I've never seen any of the movies), on the other hand lets you totally identify with this despicable pedophile—it's what makes the book so powerful. This film always kept me at a distasteful distance. It was lumpy above all else. Moments flew in from nowhere and I never quite caught onto the through line for the characters. Their shifts in behavior seemed almost random.
I've bashed it a lot, but I didn't hate the film. Cinematographically it was quite lovely. The costumes Lee wears are really spot-on, plus there are some great camera shots and angles. I just don't think it really made it off the ground from a concept piece to become a real story.