Second Act Review
It's ironic that a film by the name of Second Act, the new Jennifer Lopez acting vehicle, actually relies very heavily on the central conceit just to set up the epynomous second act of its heroine's story but forgets to actually develop a second act worthy of its name.
The central conceit is that J.Lo is a 40-something woman who wants to reach the next level in her professional life and comes up with an entirely false resume full of career milestones that never happened but somehow manages to land a high-profile job as a consultant at a massive skincare corporation. How she manages to keep her true identity hidden from the management and her competitors and how her personal life plays spoilsport at every stage forms the second act of Second Act.
Unfortunately, it is a screenplay of convenience by Justin Zackham and Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas that's chock-full of contrivances to set up some (highly predictable) workplace comedy at first and then completely loses sight of where it had started off: the idea that women have a say in running their own lives in 2019 (2018 in the film) and that it's completely fine if they wish to choose career over birthing babies because it's their bodies and their lives.
The treatment of the material by director Peter Segal is run-of-the-mill from the get-go but at least he manages to convey the above message to his audience. The fact that a multi-billion dollar company hires a person for an important post without at least checking her references and that only one person in the entire company thinks to do so later is as hard to digest as J.Lo is easy on the eyes but you do get the point it tries to make. A pleasantly diverting element to the stale proceedings is the relationship J.Lo's Maya enjoys with the women in her life, including her best friend Joan (Leah Remini). Those are the only moments that manage an air of authenticity and chemistry and I suspect having a female co-writer in Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas helps in that regard.
As soon as we approach the halfway mark, though, the film drops everything for a ludicrous twist that I must confess I saw coming only a few moments before it was sprung but that's because the twist breaks track so completely that you're left wondering the two halves of the film were conceived by two different people.
The film then goes on to undermine everything that had come up till that point and switches concentration from contemporary women's issues to age-old Mommy issues. It goes from talking about a woman wanting to take charge of her professional life to saying that whatever they do, women can never escape the overbearing patriarchal guilt of not starting a family and staying home to take care of the kids.
From there, the film is a constant slog of forced emotions, even more forced subplots, expected montages, hopeful voiceovers over sunsets and everything else you would expect from a film of this kind. Jennifer Lopez sticks with this theme and even gives a performance you've oft seem before, no fresh flavor of her own to it. Vanessa Hudgens plays the other primary character of the film and her character's screentime was no doubt buffed up due to her presence. She gives it her best but her best isn't the best.
Second Act is a film best ignored, unless you're a fan of scattershot narrative tones, compulsory social messages, textbook hopeful voiceovers and random jokes about self-pleasure and kinky sex every now and then.
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