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sorry silver bullet, but this movie obviously made me come out of the desert to make some comments so, I say this movie did just what it should have and didn't try to make more of itself than it was. if anything it downplayed quite a lot (think of Exit to Eden) and was subtle, deep, and mesmerizing for me.

i do agree, sometimes maggie g. broke me out of the moment - i think because she was too cock-sure in the second half of the film and in a way that made spader seem less in control, less an authority, which sort of defeats the purpose. deflates the hold he has over her because she keeps acting like she wants this - in some ways that denies a true sado-masochistic relationship because she wasn't showing enough of the dichotomy - she lives to make him happy and should FEAR reprisals, not eagerly chase them down without any signs of true angst.

i also didn't like the opening scene (a later scene). which the director said he added to help make audiences comfortable so they knew something "exciting" was going to happen and they wouldn't be too jarred. bad choice - it deflates the mystery and shock of what our heroine feels because we know exactly what's going to happen to her and we don't feel it along with her quite the same way because we know in advance where she's going to end up, at least part way through the movie (we don't know the final conclusion).

anyway, here's my netflix review:

My review contains vague SPOILERS I don't really give much away but the spirit of the work. //

I believe this movie is near flawless, in its depiction of the existential struggle against and need for dysfunction in our lives, and the need to find the perfect partner to both feed and curb that craving, to give us light in the darkness of our own self doubt, of our fear of the world, our fear of ourselves.

I watched the Director's Commentary, immediately after watching the movie - I have NEVER done that for a film before. I stayed up til 4 am, which is how much it moved me. I wanted to see what the director meant, how well he really understood this story, whether he truly understood the nuance. I speak as someone who understands both what it is to seek normalcy - the negative reviews here, the nervous laughers - and those who recognize that everyone has a need - the supportive reviews, the delighted passersby.

This film is not a joke, even though some absurd situations can feel funny - as humans, we laugh when we are scared, frightened, excited. And the director understood that laughter is a part of life, just as pain is. We laugh when we know, deep down, that something is true, and we don't know what to do with that knowledge. We try to laugh it away. This film held me tight, unable to laugh it away, and I remained thrilled that it would not let me go, would not let me dismiss it, would not let me think that this was just a quirky black comedy to enjoy and forget. I held my breath and could not take my eyes from the screen because I understood.

This film was dead serious in its beauty and the portrayal of the complexity of the relationship between master and slave, child and parent, boss and employee, symbiotic lovers. All relationships, truest purest relationships, are this, with or without the physical display of sadomasochism - the self-torture and doubt exist whether or not we use harnesses, paddles, or actually get down on our knees. By focusing on this particular couple and their particular need, the director and actors paint the purest diamond of completion of self that we all look for.

James Spader was stellar - frightening, hilariously beside himself, deliciously and intensely overwhelming. Maggie's transformation was exquisite, the abandon with which she accepts her true self refreshing (something most of us would never be brave enough to do), even as we watch her almost lose heaven because her match was afraid to face himself and her.

In the end, this is not just about sex, which even the director kept simplifying it as. This is about surrendering your entire being, something you've wanted all your life. It's religious, spiritual, a way of life and looking at the world, not just a kinky sexual lifestyle preference. When Spader tells her exactly how much to eat and how many peas to have on her plate - it is not immediate sexual joy she is feeling but utter relief and release. She can finally surrender control, herself, her life, everything she is, to someone she can trust to do the job, and do it right. Some people do this with God. She did this with her perfect here-on-earth compliment. If only we could all be so lucky.