A romantic comedy about a twisted S&M relationship? That’s what director Shainberg is going for in his adaptation of Mary Gaitskill’s short story about a lawyer (Spader) and his new assistant (Gyllenhaal), a just-released mental patient who’s more interested in taking abuse than dictation. ”It’s not ‘The James Spader S&M Movie,’ even though there is that stuff in it,” says Shainberg, whose film scored a jury prize for originality at Sundance. ”It’s a love story. I think it really is a Friday-night date movie.” Even if you aren’t dating a kinky leather fetishist. ”There is an S&M psychological dynamic between them, but rather than being ugly and scary, it’s actually intimate and caring. I know that might sound loopy, [but] this subject matter can be funny and sweet and beautiful and romantic.”

Still, there are some pretty heated scenes of bondage and spanking. What sort of research did Spader do to prepare? ”None,” the actor says. ”I don’t want to tell any tales out of school, and I certainly don’t like to reveal anything about myself in print, but…I think with a subject like this, it is best to look within.” Aha. ”See? I’ve told you too much right there.”

  • Movie
  • 104 minutes