Rated 4.0

A young woman who has just recovered from a nervous breakdown (Maggie Gyllenhaal) goes to work for an uptight lawyer (James Spader). Before long, their working relationship takes a decidedly kinky and unprofessional turn. Writer Erin Cressida Wilson and director Steven Shainberg (adapting Mary Gaitskill’s short story) pull off quite a tightrope walk: a film about a dominant-submissive relationship with a hint of danger that still manages to be rather sweet and even, oddly, almost chastely romantic; and an improbably winning story of two sad, lonely people who, against all odds, find each other. Mordantly funny, startling and erotic, it’s a spicy little cocktail surprise, with fine acting by Spader (wound up and twitchy) and a phenomenal breakthrough performance by Gyllenhaal (Jake’s sister).