“Second Act” is attempting to be some things that it is not. It is sold as a Romantic Comedy, just without the romance. It is supposed to be a positive feel-good story of a woman who can make it on her own merits. Yet her credentials are made up from whole cloth and are fake, phony and non-existent. There is an encouraging message on adoption, but the lead up to the reunification of mother and adopted out daughter seem contrived. But is does have Jennifer Lopez as the charismatic engine in this ‘Little Engine That Could”, so it is able to climb that hill and make it to the top. She brings all of her energy, and there is a cast of supporting characters that gives this movie a little zest.
Maya (Jennifer Lopez) is a 40-year old with a job in a big box retail store in Queens. She has been building up the local store for many years, yet she is passed up for a Manager position. She is feeling down, and her boyfriend Trey (Milo Ventimiglia) attempts to cheer her up. But they have a major fight over getting married and having kids. She is not ready for that, so soon she is staying at her best friend and co-worker’s house. Joan (Leah Remini) has sympathy for Maya, but she gets her son to give Maya a professional Social Media makeover. Maya becomes Maria, who has graduated from Wharton Business School, served in the Peace Corp, and climb Kilimanjaro. Maya (as Maria) gets a very lucrative job offer from a Wall Street business that is into skin care products.
Maria (actually Maya) really impresses the owner and founder of the company, Anderson Clarke (Treat Williams). She has less of an impact on his daughter Zoe (Vanessa Hudgens). Maya BS’s her way into a corporate position and finds herself in a showdown with another group inside the company. There are two groups that will attempt to make a fully organic skin care product, and the other group will take an existing product and make it eco-friendlier. Maya has only a few folks with her side, including Hildy (Annaleigh Ashford). They face off against a group led by Ron (Freddie Stroma). Ron is running circles around Maya, and Hildy also dumps Maya to work instead with Ron. There are some social events for the company that end in disaster because Anderson believes that Maya has done all the things that are listed on the (fake) resume.
But a dark secret that Maya has from her past caused her breakup with Trey, because she could not bear to tell him the truth. That youthful mistake that created Maya’s hidden secret comes back to her in a big and substantial way. Maya develops a much closer relationship with Zoe because of this past incident. But Maya still attempts to keep up the fake facade that got her this new position and all the luxuries that come with it. But will her moments of dishonesty lead Maya to some unfortunate circumstances? Is her trouble with the past really over, or is it just now starting again?
“Second Act” is a big underachiever, in that it starts up with too many ideas that never get fully developed. The writing has some pretty funny lines, but the overall idea is dreadful. Don’t like your current job? Then make up all sorts of wild things about your professional past to make you look like a Real Pro. I’m sure you won’t get caught. Jennifer Lopez never did! But hand it to Lopez, because she takes the old rusty Chevy Chevette of a story and makes it purr like a Corvette.
There are a handful of really funny lines, most delivered by Leah Remini (as her best friend Joan). Vanessa Hudgens has a nice performance as person who has more in common with Maya than she knows. Milo Ventimiglia is seen a short time and retuns at the end, so not much is there for him. All the other actors are respectable, but nobody stands out.
Only because Jennifer Lopez stars in this movie, “Second Act” deserves a second look.