‘Second Act’ is not, by any traditional metrics, a good movie. The dialogue is clunky and the plot swings from one unrealistic moment to another. If you’re someone who likes serious films, you may have checked out long before the bit where Jennifer Lopez releases some doves to hilariously catastrophic effect.
That said, one day I will be regularly revisiting it on Netflix – probably with a few friends and a bottle of rosé. It’s a zingy tale of mistaken identity that evolves into something bigger, and Lopez effortlessly pulls off funny and charming in the lead role. She plays a supermarket worker who quits her job when she’s overlooked for promotion (in favour of a younger man, inevitably) and then fakes her way into a big-city company. It’s like ‘Maid in Manhattan’ meets ‘Working Girl’, with a bolted-on adoption subplot.
But it’s the career focus that makes it work, even when it doesn’t. It’s like a noughties romcom pumped full of 2019’s gender and class politics: the male colleagues are slimy buffoons; the women are sweary and outspoken. Lopez’s character experiences the highs of empowerment, but also falls flat on her face a few times. As a female viewer you feel very much in on the joke.
It’s rare and exciting to see the relatable pain of being a woman at work explored in mainstream comedy. For anyone who’s endured workplace sexism, it’s comedy as catharsis.