Movie Review – Second Act (2018)
There is a classic or perhaps cliché battle going on here between street smarts versus book smarts. The protagonist here has street smarts but she contends with a corporate world or a corporate culture that prefers or values book smarts. The obvious conclusion is that it isn’t about which kind of smarts is better. It’s about utilizing a combination of the two. However, the film does eschew a kind of need for a college or university degree. It does dismiss the Ivy League learning and status for more down-to-Earth, everyday experiences being the better education.
Jennifer Lopez (Out of Sight and Selena) stars as Maya Vargas, a retail employee at a store called Value Shop but feels like it could be a Wal-Mart or something similar. She’s worked there for over 15 years. She never went to college. She only got her G.E.D., but now she’s 40 and feeling unsatisfied with her career life. She attempts to get a managerial position at Value Shop, but she’s told that she can’t because she doesn’t have a college degree. In other job interviews, she’s led to believe that she won’t ever be able to get a higher up position unless she has a college education.
Her godson, however, does what he calls a digital Cinderella and gives her a résumé and a social media presence that makes it seem like she went to an Ivy League school and built connections and experiences from that Ivy League school. This allows her to get a job interview at a corporation called F&C. The false credentials gets her through the door, but her 15 years of experience in retail allow her to have a perspective that impresses F&C’s CEO, Anderson Clarke, played by Treat Williams (Chesapeake Shores and Everwood).
Vanessa Hudgens (Spring Breakers and High School Musical) co-stars as Zoe Clarke, the daughter of Anderson Clarke who works at the company. She oversees a lot of the cosmetics and beauty lines. She did go the Ivy League route for real, but most likely still got this job because of nepotism. Yet, there’s a part of her that would rather be doing something outside of this corporate track. She admires Maya but feels a sense of competitiveness with her.
The thrust of the movie is a contest that Anderson sets up. Maya is to lead a team to come up with a new cosmetic line that is all organic. Zoe is to lead a team to come up with a way to revamp an old cosmetic line. The winner is whichever woman can develop a cosmetic line in ten weeks for the cheapest price and most profitable results. Hijinks ensue with Maya’s team having to reject the corporate traditions in exchange for Maya’s down-to-Earth techniques. Charlyne Yi (This is 40) and Alan Aisenberg (Orange is the New Black) play Ariana and Chase respectively. Both are a part of Maya’s team and both are funny.
Freddie Stroma (Unreal) plays Ron, a member of Zoe’s team who spends most of the film trying to undermine and expose Maya. He’s suspicious of her. He doesn’t know that her credentials are fake, but he has his curiosities. He pursues taking her down. This is just an undercurrent though.
The bulk of the movie is about Maya’s relationship and dynamic with Zoe. We see the ins and outs of this 40-year-old woman with the 20-something. A lot of it is about regrets from the older woman along with the frustrations, butted against the hopes and ambitions of the younger woman. It becomes a more mother-daughter dynamic that gets out issues that maybe some women in the workforce face. The plot has a twist that somewhat pushes this movie toward soap opera silliness. The comedy isn’t that well done, so we’re left with lame soap opera drama.
Directed by Peter Segal, this movie isn’t as funny as his previous efforts like Anger Management and Get Smart. Written by Justin Zackham and Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, this movie doesn’t have the great drama of Zackham’s Lights Out or Shades of Blue, which Goldsmith-Thomas was a producer and Lopez was the star. Unfortunately, this reeks of something that probably should have been on the Hallmark Channel rather than thousands of theaters. Lopez is lovely and Leah Remini, who plays her best friend, is hilarious, but that’s about all I can say about this film.
Rated PG-13 for language, including crude sexual references.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 43 mins.