Based on a 1989 short story by Mary Gaitskill, Secretary’s oddly affirmative tale is one of private pathology turned to self-discovery. Instead of therapy (she’s fresh from the nut house), Lee (Maggie Gyllenhaal) finds a healthier, if still unconventional, outlet for her masochistic tendencies while being bound, spanked, and dominated by her anal-retentive attorney boss (James Spader). Proofreading has never been so sexually charged. In a movie about erotic and emotional displacement, each of Lee’s typos invites stern correction. The 2002 Secretary treats the S&M stuff for laughs, not titillation, yet the two excellent lead performers never wink at the audience or belittle their characters. The Sundance prize winner’s cockeyed sweetness owes everything to Gyllenhaal’s open-faced charm. Secretary is her My Fair Lady, and Spader her naughtier, uncensored Henry Higgins. The movie may send some feminists up a wall, but Lee looks to be awfully fulfilled in the end. (R) BRIAN MILLER

Jan. 28-31, 9:30 p.m., 2011

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