“Second Act,” starring Jennifer Lopez and Leah Remini, isn’t a startlingly novel idea. We’ve seen the story of a person who transcends class and education to change their lives in everything from “My Fair Lady” and “Working Girl” to Amy Schumer’s “I Feel Pretty” and Lopez’s 2002 rom com “Maid in Manhattan.” Part fairy tale, part study of class discrimination, “Second Act” breathes new life into an old trope.
Lopez plays Maya, a New York supermarket clerk who, despite her keen work ethic, gets passed over for a promotion because the other candidate has a college degree and she doesn’t. “Arthur got his MBA from Duke,” she is told. “He’s the best man for the job.” Irritated, she grumbles to her friend Joan (Remini), “I just wish we lived in a world where street smarts equalled book smarts.”
To help in her job search Joan and computer whiz son Dilly (Dalton Harrod) fabricate a resume, pumping up Maya’s credentials to include a degree from Wharton Business School and special skills like mountain climbing and fluency in Mandarin. “I gave you a completely new identity,” Dilly says. “You said you wanted to be fancy, so I Cinderella’d your ass.”
The resume does the trick and she soon lands a job as a consultant for a large skin care company. Surviving on a combo of enthusiasm and street smarts she bluffs her way through despite opposition from the boss’s insecure daughter (Vanessa Hudgens).
Like a Successories poster come to life “Second Act” is an attractively photographed bit of uplift complete with handy dandy inspirational message. “Our mistakes don’t limit us, our fears do.” It’s also rather boring. After a promising start with some giggles provided by Remini’s razor sharp line delivery and some quirky work from Charlyne Yi, the predictable tale of second chances takes a sharp U-turn into melodrama and never recovers.
What might have been a tale of class designations washed down with a joke or two becomes an uncomfortable hybrid of a soap opera and fairy tale.
“Second Act” sees Lopez doing her best with a script that requires little more from her than sitting on the subway looking introspective. This story of second chances won’t hold up to a second viewing.