Jennifer Lopez hasn’t really appeared on a big screen since 2015, probably because she doesn’t have to; the work of being a global multihyphenate is more than business enough.
She’s nothing if not a woman who knows her brand, though, and Second Act is perfectly tailored to it. A bright, self-actualizing creampuff, the movie plays to nearly all her strengths; not just as an actress, but as the ageless, impossibly glamorous superstar who still somehow retains the on-the-6 relatability of her Bronx Everygirl bona fides.
And that’s what exactly Act does, albeit by way of another borough (this time, Queens) — putting Jenny back on the block as a street-smart chain-store employee inadvertently bumped up to the C-suites. Her Maya is a sort of cinematic sister to Maid in Manhattan‘s Marisa, now hovering at a fresh-faced fortyish with an adoring boyfriend, Trey (Milo Ventimiglia), a wry but supportive best friend Joan (Leah Remini), and improbably amazing hair.
Maya believes she has a real chance of becoming a branch manager at the store she’s thrived at for more than 15 years, but when her work is passed over in favor of an oblivious white guy with an expensive degree, fate (or more specifically, Joan’s brainiac son) steps in, reworking her resumé and landing her an executive post at a glossy Manhattan beauty company headed by Anderson Clarke (Treat Williams) and co-captained by his daughter (Vanessa Hudgens), who becomes an antagonist almost from the moment they meet.
Whether Maya will learn to trust her instincts, resolve her commitment issues, and find that her self-worth is worth far more than the paper her GED is printed on hardly falls into doubt for a hot minute. The whole thing is a fairytale, from Ventimiglia’s dreamy baseball-coach boyfriend to the widely telegraphed and wildly improbable plot twist that comes midway through.
What’s fun is just watching Lopez and her supporting cast — including her real-life best friend Remini, Tony winner Annaleigh Ashford as her tightly wound coworker, and a loopy Charlyne Yi as her phobic new assistant — move through the scenes so easily; when a vintage Salt-N-Pepa song starts up a spontaneous dance party in Joan’s kitchen, you wait patiently for a reluctant Maya to give in to it and free the Fly Girl within.
And that’s pretty much the message of the movie: Dance like nobody’s watching; dream like you can do anything; go see this movie like you don’t have Roma waiting in your Netflix queue. B