Review: SECOND ACT Doesn’t Deserve A Second (Or First) Chance

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Jennifer Lopez stars in SECOND ACT. Photo Credit: Barry Wetcher; Motion Picture Artwork © 2017 STX Financing, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Second Act is a new film starring Jennifer Lopez. It was positioned by the studio with a prime holiday release date, likely with the hope that it will serve as counterprogramming to the big-budget action fare that is sure to dominate the box office. In the movie, Lopez plays a middle-aged woman who, never having attended college, reinvents herself and gets a corporate position for a second chance at success.

Second Act has to be one of the most painfully unfunny films to be released in 2018, if not all time. There were only seven moments in the movie that were funny enough to even cause a smile. In a film that is around an hour and thirty-five minutes long (accommodating for credits), that is an average of one laugh every fourteen minutes. That is a dismal ratio. Some of the humor seemed to land slightly better with the target audience, but no one was exactly rolling in their seats.

Because the film is so poorly-paced, the film feels much longer than it actually is. Comedy films usually feel short because they are jumping from gag to gag, but that doesn’t happen here. Most of the time, it is simply using old and recycled gags, and as such, none of it feels fresh or enjoyable. Although watching a big-name star going around and being placed in embarrassing situations may have been hilarious ten years ago, that formula just doesn’t work anymore. There are also long stretches of the film in which the melodrama takes center stage, and these are even more excruciating than the film’s meager attempts at comedy. There are multiple attempts at “twists” in the drama, and they are all predictable and cliched.

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Jennifer Lopez and Vanessa Hudgens star in SECOND ACT. Photo Credit: Barry Wetcher; Motion Picture Artwork © 2017 STX Financing, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

The story is quite painful too. The film does have one thing going for it: it is coherent. However, almost every other negative adjective in the book could be used to describe it. It is extremely contrived — the plot feels like it is only a means of pushing the message. It is convenient — every little thing falls into place nicely, again, furthering the film’s point. Honestly, the film took just about every wrong turn possible, and as a result, it is nearly unbearable.

The characters aren’t all that compelling either. It seems like we are supposed to sympathize with the protagonist because she is the manifestation of the stereotypical middle class worker (apart from the fact that, you know, she’s Jennifer Lopez). However, the film makes her seem arrogant at the beginning of the film. While she is admirable for her hard work, her personality makes her annoying. The supporting characters are all flat and archetypal. The character Zoe is perhaps the most frustrating. Her character goes through so many complete flips in personality that it becomes ridiculously hard to sympathize with her by the end of the film.

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Charlyne Yi, Alan Aisenberg, Jennifer Lopez, and Annaleigh Ashford star in SECOND ACT. Photo Credit: Barry Wetcher; Motion Picture Artwork © 2017 STX Financing, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

It isn’t the actors’ fault that the movie is bad, nor is it really their fault that their performances aren’t good. Recent history has shown that, no matter how great the actor or actress, they can only do so much with a bad script. Lopez is obviously trying very hard, and she even seems like she is having fun in parts, but that can’t save the film. Vanessa Hudgens, on the other hand, feels like she is phoning it in. The rest of the supporting cast might as well be nonexistent, as no one else is given a truly interesting and substantial part.

On a technical level, the film is mostly competent. All the shots are in focus and they knew how to make the camera steady. That’s more than can be said about some movies. That being said, the film still resorts to a number of cliches in editing and execution. For example, the physical comedy shots are thoroughly bland. The camera also frequently ogles Lopez’s body. This is unnecessary in a movie in which the lesson of the film is that the protagonist could have made it by on her wits alone.

Overall, Second Act is an extremely rough film. In many ways, it is basically narratively incompetent. That being said, it may have some appeal within its very narrow target audience.

Second Act is now playing in theaters.

By Sean Boelman

Sean is a film student, aspiring filmmaker, and life-long cinephile. For as long as he can remember, he has always loved film, but he credits the film Pan's Labyrinth as having started his love of film as art. Sean enjoys watching many types of films, although some personal favorite genres include dramatic comedies, romantic comedies, heist films, and art horror.

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