Second Act (2018) Movie Review

By: Jenna Zine (Five Beers) –

Maya Vargas is a big-box store manager with dreams, but she’s hemmed in by her pay-grade, education, and gender. Things magically turn around when Maya’s godson submits a fake résumé on her behalf and she lands the job of a lifetime. Will Maya take the lie and run with it, or will honesty pull her back to reality?

[Review contains spoilers and detailed expanded plot points.]

A Toast

Maya Vargas (Jennifer Lopez) is a woman with big ideas who yearns to show what she’s capable of in her otherwise dead-end job. The film kicks off with Maya presenting a pitch-perfect money-making idea to her boss – only to immediately lose out on the promotion to a man with less ambition and more education. Maya is disheartened – how will this degree-less woman ever get ahead? But wait – it happens to be her birthday, and we know that birthday wishes always come true! Maya casually mentions that she “wants to be fancy” as she blows out her candles and the next thing you know she’s got a job interview at a huge corporation, with a position tailor-made just for her. (I want a refund on my birthday candles – I wished for my wrinkles to disappear without having to use Botox. I’m still waiting.) How did all this come to pass? We have her “genius” godson to thank – he created a fake online presence and résumé for her as a gift. Oh, and he also happened to apply to a few corporations on her behalf! You know, because that’s a thing an 18-year old male headed to Harvard on “a Google scholarship” would do. Makes perfect sense.

The hoop earrings say, “I’m playful,” but the knitted brow says, “Surely you’re not choosing this jag over me.”

Beer Two

If Maya thinks it’s weird, she doesn’t waste much time questioning it. With encouragement from her best friend, Joan (J-Lo’s real life bestie, Leah Remini), she quits her going-nowhere crap job and takes the gig in the sleek NYC office with nothing more than her moxie to back her up. Why? Because she believes she can! (She gets hired after one meeting with the owner/founder of said company, who immediately gifts her with a Bloomingdale’s shopping spree and a corporate apartment. Now I’m seriously pissed at my birthday candles.) After all, she’s got 15-years’ experience shilling cheap products at her not-Walmart job. That means she’s been on the front lines of consumerism, which for sure qualifies her to confidently state what’s wrong with the marketing at this tony organic makeup conglomerate.

The catch? Well, there doesn’t appear to be one. Her colleagues take her seriously and she’s immediately handed the reins to a massive campaign. Combine that with the requisite makeover (mainly off camera – boo) from Jersey hair to Gwyneth Paltrow stick-straight locks and boom. She’s on the fast track to success – lack of college degree be damned! (Now I’m mad at both my ineffectual birthday candles and my student loans.)

Just got here and totes already in charge. What did you do today?

Beer Three

Sure, there are challenges – like the one coworker who hates her and the fact that she and her hot boyfriend (Milo Ventimiglia as Trey) broke up over her willingness to embrace the lie and run with the opportunities her fake résumé has afforded her. Oh, that and the fact that she won’t start a family with him. (For the love of god, who doesn’t want to start a family with Milo Ventimiglia?! Is J-Lo blind?) Hmm… could her refusal to bear this hunk’s babies have anything to do with a lingering dark secret? If you’re thinking, “It totally could,” you’d be correct! You see, Maya already had a baby – one that she gave up for adoption at 17 years old, an act that haunts her to present day. So, she couldn’t possibly have another baby… Because, uh, honestly, I’m not sure why not. I guess she’s still paying for that “sin” and thusly Milo must keep his surely glorious penis bagged up.

For the love of god and all that is holy – let this man put a baby in you!

Meanwhile, things are a breeze for Maya at work. Even the heated competition with another coworker – who happens to be the boss’s daughter (Vanessa Hudgens as Zoe) – is going along swimmingly. That is until it’s revealed that Zoe is actually Maya’s long-lost daughter! Wait. What in the what?

Beer Four

Oh, yes friends – this is a plot point. And unfortunately, one that derails the rest of the film, turning what could’ve been a signature J-Lo rom com into one gigantic drag. (Not to mention the absurdly low odds that the job her godson found for her would also end up being the workplace of the child she gave up for adoption more than 20 years ago. You’d have a better chance of winning the lottery.) The moment the movie begins to focus on Maya’s re-connection with her daughter becomes the moment the audience is forced to watch two different projects – a workplace romp and a Lifetime melodrama, with far too little spotlight on the fun. As you can imagine, it’s a bummer to go in thinking you’ve signed up to see a comedy and instead are forced to sit thru schmaltz that takes itself way too seriously.

You can tell Vanessa totally knows this is a mistake…

Beer Five

Sadly, the movie is a waste of Jennifer Lopez’s time and talent. Say what you will about J-Lo, but no one can deny that she sparkles on the big screen. She’s watchable, magically relatable, and just so damn fun in most films. But Second Act doesn’t take advantage of any of that, instead focusing the majority of attention on the completely unbelievable and uninteresting daughter reveal and ensuing bonding.

And it is a shame; especially since there are few who know more about hard work than J-Lo. While she’s a woman famously in love with love (is anyone else yearning for the A-Rod years to end so we can get this hottie back on the market to find someone more deserving of her?), it could be argued that her true devotion is her career. While men have come and gone (hello, Ben Affleck, Marc Anthony, and Cris-no h-Judd!), the one constant has been her grind. J-Lo dominates at reinvention and forward motion – she’s been an unstoppable force in the entertainment industry for more than two decades. And this is of note, as Lopez is now in her 40’s and relevant as ever – no easy task in a society that likes to throw away women like expired cartons of milk the second the clock turns 30. (Unfortunately, the fact that this flick misses the mark ironically circles back to J-Lo – she’s the executive producer, and presumably had a large say over the direction of the plot.)

One of cinemas most enduring moments, and still Ben Affleck’s best work. 

Verdict

If you’re looking for a rom com/workplace farce, revisit the far superior Working Girl. (Long live Trask Radio!) If you’re looking to be bored to tears, go ahead and line up for Second Act. But don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Second Act (2018) Drinking Game

Take a Drink: every time Maya doesn’t believe in herself, but then shrugs it off and goes all in!

Take a Drink: every time Joan swears and then chastises her child for doing the same.

Take a Drink: every time you roll your eyes.

Take a Drink: every time you think, “Wait – I didn’t order a Lifetime movie!”

Do a Shot: for Vanessa Hudgens, looking stunning in this film and miles away from The Princess Switch.

Hangover Cure: want to learn more about women excelling in the workplace? Check out Elaine Lui’s must-read blog, Lainey Gossip, and must-listen-to podcast, Show Your Work.

About Jenna Zine

Jenna Zine is a writer, unashamed Bachelor franchise recapper & live-tweeter (@JennaZine1), drummer, and occasional standup comic. She's probably somewhere complaining about her bangs. Find more at www.jennazine.com

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