Secretary appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a drab presentation.
Sharpness varied and tended to seem mediocre. At best, the image offered reasonably good clarity, but it never seemed especially concise, and more than a few soft shots materialized. I saw no jaggies or moiré effects, but light edge haloes popped up through parts of the film.
As for print issues, Secretary appeared grainier than most modern flicks, especially during early scenes. However, this looked like something that stemmed from the original photography and didn’t impress me as a transfer concern. Otherwise, I noticed a few small specks.
Despite the subject matter, Secretary displayed a surprisingly bright and varied palette. The disc displayed these tones in an erratic fashion – at times, the hues seemed perky, but other instances showed oddly flat colors.
Black levels seemed fairly deep and rich, but shadow detail was somewhat more erratic. This meant some low-light sequences came across as moderately opaque. In the end, this was a mediocre transfer that could have been better.
As for the DTS-HD MA 7.1 of Secretary, it seemed surprisingly good for a character drama of this sort. Nothing here stood out as impressive, but the soundscape opened up the material better than anticipated.
Some of this came from music, which used the various channels in a pretty involving manner. Effects had less to do, but they tended to display a nice sense of place, and a few scenes – such as at the wedding reception – broadened horizons in a satisfying manner.
Audio quality seemed good. Speech sounded natural and distinct, and I noticed no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility.
Effects didn’t have a lot to do here, but they appeared acceptably accurate and concise. Music also appeared clear and smooth, as those pieces were fairly bright and showed nice low-end response. Though this never became a memorable track, it did well for the subject matter.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the original DVD release? The Blu-ray’s DTS-HD MA 7.1 mix replaced the DVD’s Dolby 2.0 track, and the DTS-HD version showed more life. Neither dazzled, but the DTS-HD edition was more engaging and accurate.
Visuals also showed improvements, as the Blu-ray looked tighter and more natural. Even though the Blu-ray disappointed, it still represented a moderate step up over the DVD.
Only a few extras come along with Secretary. We start with an audio commentary from director Steven Shainberg and writer Erin Cressida Wilson, both of whom sit together for this running, screen-specific piece. A low-key offering, the pair provide a moderately informative but fairly average commentary.
Shainberg dominates, as Wilson chips in infrequently. The pair cover a mix of issues related to the film, most of which hit on typical issues. We hear about locations and art design, working with the actors, alterations made from the script, and various challenges.
We also get a little analysis of the flick and its characters. Unfortunately, much of the track just covers the usual happy talk, as the pair tell us how great everything is.
Shainberg really seems to be in love with his movie, and this tone influences much of the piece. It becomes rather tiresome at times, especially during the flick’s second half.
Overall, the commentary provides some decent information, but it doesn’t seem to be especially useful. It comes across as a decent track but not one that adds a lot to the listener’s understanding of the film.
Next we find a seven-minute, nine-second featurette called Behind the Secretary. This provides sound bites with director Shainberg plus actors Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader.
Though a little more detailed than the standard puff piece, “Behind” doesn’t really give us much depth. We learn a bit about the actors, visual design, and a couple other elements, but don’t expect a lot of useful information here.
We also discover a Photo Gallery. It includes 13 stills, most of which show publicity shots. None of these seem very interesting.
Note that the Blu-ray drops the trailer from the DVD and also omits one picture from the “Photo Gallery”. The image in question offered a sexy shot of Gyllenhaal – the only appealing still in the gallery! Maybe Gyllenhaal wasn’t happy it appeared on the DVD, as otherwise I can’t figure out why the Blu-ray would drop the picture.
A perverse but fairly interesting love story, Secretary does little exceptional as a film. However, a dazzling turn by its lead actress helps make the piece much more compelling than otherwise may have occurred. The Blu-ray offers reasonably good audio as well as mediocre visuals and a smattering of supplements. I like the movie but the Blu-ray seems lackluster.
To rate this film, visit the DVD review of SECRETARY