Second Act (2018)

Second Act
Director: Peter Segal
Writer: Justin Zackham, Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas
Cast: Jennifer Lopez, Vanessa Hudgens, Leah Remini, Treat Williams, Milo Ventimiglia, Annaleigh Ashford, Charlyne Yi, Alan Aisenberg
Seen on: 8.1.2022

Maya (Jennifer Lopez) has worked in a big supermarket for 15 years, with much success. But when she applies for the manager position and is passed over yet again for a white guy with a college degree, she feels like she is stuck in her job, especially with her 40th birthday just approaching. When the son of her best friend Joan (Leah Remini), Dilly (Dalton Harrod) applies for a job in her name at a big company and she actually gets an interview, Maya goes there without much hope. To her surprise she finds not only that she actually gets the job, but that Dilly created a completely fake CV for her. Despite this, Maya decides to go for the new job and prove herself.

Second Act has a lot of charm, but unfortunately not a lot of coherence and it doesn’t even seem to know what story it wants to tell. Nevertheless, I did enjoy most of it.

The film poster showing Maya (Jennifer Lopez) in a business outfit standing in a skyscraper.

Second Act has a lot to recommend it. Jennifer Lopez is charming and I liked that we got an older protagonist who gets to reinvent herself. And who has a younger boyfriend (Milo Ventimiglia). There are generally some very nice supporting characters. Plus, I really appreciated that Maya’s competition with Zoe (Vanessa Hudgens) does not turn into a catfight, but rather that they show respect for each other – both being women of color with something to prove.

It is here, though, that the film turns a little weird. Apparently, it needed more reason for the two women not to fight dirty or to respect each other than just competence recognizing competence, and so it invents the most absurd reason for their friendliness – a reason that breaks suspension of disbelief for the entire film, and takes focus away from the central message and narrative.

Maya (Jennifer Lopez) gets a pep-talk from her friend and co-worker Joan (Leah Remini) at the supermarket.

Not that this message is entirely unquestionable. I am all here for storylines that challenge the notion that somebody with a university degree is inherently more capable than somebody without one, especially when the latter has a lot of practical experience. But then again, there is value in academic education and the film loses sight of that a little. Plus, Maya’s knowledge and intuition borders on the magical. And it also loses sight of the sexism and racism included in the set-up.

Still, Second Act is entertaining enough and lives from Lopez’ and the supporting cast’s charm. Fortunately, there is a lot of that to go around, even when the story fails a little.

Maya (Jennifer Lopez) and her development team - Ariana (Charlyne Yi), Chase (Alan Aisenberg) and Hildy (Annaleigh Ashford).

Summarizing: cute, but not great.

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