You are writing a research paper, the deadline is in a couple of hours, and you need to get to the word count. So what do you do? You digress. You digress in every which way, exploring every plausible and even implausible part of your topic. Second Act does just that; it deviates so much it is like one big research paper gone very very wrong.
Second Act follows Maya Vargas (Jennifer Lopez), an Assistant Store Manager in Queens, aiming for a well-deserved promotion to Store Manager. When the store chain owner brings in a white male with a college degree, she struggles to cope and makes a wish on her birthday that “book smarts would be equal to street smarts”. Maya’s godson grants her wish by creating a fake resume and Facebook account to make her part of Harvard, Wharton, and even the Peace Core, and the young genius lands her a corporate consultancy job. Now Maya’s lack of degrees doesn’t hold her back, but she lands in trouble leading a fake life, lying to even the closest people to her, and trying to make it in her career against new corporate arch enemy Zoe (Vanessa Hudgens). With friendships strained, loved ones lost, and secrets uncovered, Maya questions whether or not she can go on with the charade for long.
The plot is a mess. The several side plots and detours all going on at once without a primary focus, turn the film into a disaster. But, somehow Second Act is not a complete train wreck. The film is no work of art either, but the haphazardness of the plot does a lot less damage than expected, and the film’s flow is not catastrophic.
A probable explanation of the mess is that the filmmakers wanted to target what women care about, but did not want to choose, so they just checked the all the boxes including motherhood, love life, starting a family, and career. Whether or not the film is a comedy is also debatable since there are only a couple laugh out loud moments, and many of the jokes seem silly and misplaced.
As for the acting, Jennifer Lopez is undeniably talented. However, the film’s set-up does not allow for her full-on talent to run wild. Leah Remini was a major source of laughter; she nailed her part as the worried friend and was able to create a multidimensional, relatable character out of a role that isn’t that big. Vanessa Hudgens’s role did not require the craziest of acting chops, but she mastered the most emotional of scenes.
Second Act is not too bad of a movie to watch, but whether or not it is worth the trip and ticket to the theatre is debatable.