Second Act is a predictable, formulaic, contrived, fine but forgettable dramedy that pales in comparison to J-Lo gems like Maid in Manhattan and The Wedding Planner or even The Back-up Plan. If you go into Second Act expecting a fun, endearing ‘romantic comedy’ featuring Jennifer Lopez and Milo “Jack from This Is Us” Ventimiglia, you may be doubly disappointed. The romance is secondary to a larger story about life choices and female empowerment. That’s all well and good, but it puts poor Milo to waste.
Lopez plays a savvy assistant manager at a Costco-type store who is passed over for a much-deserved promotion because she doesn’t have a college degree. On her 40th birthday, she wishes for the chance to prove that street smarts are as valuable – if not more so – as book smarts. She gets her chance. As in many of J-Lo’s past films (and many in the genre), there are some un-truths that will surely catch up with her eventually and threaten to unravel whatever strides she’s made toward personal and professional fulfillment.
Second Act relies on familiar cinematic terrain for its comedy and drama. There’s deadline-oriented competition, scheming, undermining, stereotypical sidekicks, co-conspirators and collaborators, and moments that test the boundaries of love and friendship. The supporting characters aren’t particularly well developed, and there’s a plot twist that I saw coming from a mile away.
The best thing about Second Act is that it instantly triggered many fond memories of Working Girl, the Melanie Griffith classic that came out exactly 30 years ago. Even the customary “sassy best friend” played by Leah Remini was reminiscent of Joan Cussack’s character in Working Girl. The worst thing about Second Act is that it’s nowhere near as good. If you haven’t seen Working Girl (or even if you have), it’s worth watching that one first (or again) before tackling Second Act. Let the river run…
In honor of the 30th anniversary of Working Girl, here’s the trailer for that one. It’s a classic!