In 'Second Act', Jennifer Lopez reminds viewers what education really means, and of the importance of being true to yourself [Movie Review]

J. Lo's presence elevates the film from predictable fluff to meaningful discussion on society

Karly Cox |

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Education is important – but often people put too much emphasis on earning an official piece of paper, rather than actual learning. That’s one of the central themes in Second Act, starring Jennifer Lopez. 

Lopez plays Maya, a 40-something assistant manager of a massive department store, who, despite 15 years in the job, loses out on a promotion to a colleague with an MBA.

It’s even worse that it happens on her birthday.

Life takes a turn for the unexpected, when Maya’s computer genius godson creates an alternate persona for her – Everest-climbing, Mandarin-speaking, Harvard grad – that leads to a job offer with a massive cosmetics brand. Well aware that she will be out of her depths, she takes the job (and its massive perks), determined to prove herself, even though doing so will mean living a lie. 

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Add in some slapstick (that’s funnier than it should be because the glamorous Lopez performs it), oddly satisfying cringes courtesy of a scene involving a vet and instant translations, a sad secret from Maya’s past, and a massive plot twist, and you’ve got two hours of genuine, if often predictable, entertainment.

The comedy of errors set-up provides much of the humour.  Maya’s best friend Joan (Leah Remini) has some of the funniest lines. Along with a couple of other gal pals, she is responsible for some of the loudest laughs, even when their conversations are highlighting society’s many injustices. 

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While Maya initially has a workplace rival in the form of the CEO’s daughter, Zoe (Vanessa Hudgens), the screenwriters take a refreshing turn, and don’t allow that to last too long, instead allowing the women’s friendship to develop.

Lopez is the movie’s highlight; she’s her ever watchable on-screen self, making her character sympathetic, but never pathetic, and ensuring you are always fighting for the underdog, even if her ethics are slightly questionable. 

Second Act is an important reminder that education is so much more than four years that lead to wearing a mortarboard. It’s also about adapting, learning new skills, facing challenges, and bettering yourself, to be the best you possible. 

This film contains some strong language