SECOND ACT, US, 2018. Starring Jennifer Lopez, Vanessa Hudgens, Leah Remini Treat Williams, Milo Ventimiglia, Freddie Stroma, Charylene Yi, Alan Aisberg, Dave Foley, Larry Miller, Annaleigh Ashford. Directed by Peter Segal. 103 minutes. Rated M (Sex references and coarse language).
Second Act is the kind of light entertainment that used to be referred to as a “women’s picture”. And, it will have a particular appeal to a female audience, especially with the strong characters all being women, men somewhat in the background.
Is also star vehicle for Jennifer Lopez who had been around in films for over 20 years, her heyday in the late 1990s, early 2000s. Her fans will appreciate her in Second Act, a strong screen presence.
She plays Maria, a very practical woman who has worked in sales in a supermarket, expecting to be promoted but powers that be noting that she has no major education background or degrees. Fortunately, she has three friends who work in the store, always helpful, always with advice – Leah Remini standing out as Joan, the kind of wisecracking, common-sensed friend (played in the long ago past by Eve Arden, in the recent past by Joan Cusack). Maria is in a somewhat tentative relationship with Trey (Milo Ventimiglia), a baseball coach who has a desperate desire to have a family. Maria does not.
And, a second act? Maria makes a wish on her birthday and Joan’s son, an ultra-computer whiz, decides to produce documents of top education qualifications, personal abilities (Peace Corps, climbing Kilimanjaro…!) As well as Facebook page. Maria gets an interview with a pleasant executive, Treat Williams, although she clashes with his daughter, Zoe, Vanessa Hudgens (10 years after her High School Musicals). Despite her apprehensions, Maria makes a good impression, gets a job – and, with her knowledge of and criticism about ineffective facial products, gets a commission to develop a better organic product while Zoe leads a team to modify the current project and make it more organic than it has been.
Then, suddenly, although we realise it as it is happening, this is not exactly the second act that the action so far has indicated. It is much more – and audiences should have the opportunity to discover this for themselves without any advice or spoilers!
While Maria and Zoe are rivals, they also develop some bonds, especially in their dislike of the go-getting executive, Ron, the pushy scientist, Felix, who work with Zoe while Maria bonds with the very nervous assistant, Ariana, and the nerdy laboratory scientist, Chase. Not difficult to predict who wins – but it is interesting to see how they win and what they have developed.
But, of course, there is the issue of the truth and when and how Maria will confess it. Fortunately, she has the continued support of the three friends as well as her ingenuity in creating business and online sales.
Hollywood is often referred to as a dream factory and, in many ways, Second Act is one of those manufactured dreams. Could it happen in reality? We would like to think so – and it is enjoyable watching the roll-out of such a dream.
Roadshow Released 6th December
Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.