Second Act – Review

It is some time since Jennifer Lopez headlined a crowd pleasing Hollywood comedy. But you glance at the poster for Second Act and there’s nothing on it that suggests 2019. Indeed, it looks like a film released ten years ago. You might find yourself asking, ‘have I seen this already?’

On the face of it, you have. Back in 1988, Melanie Griffith was sandwiched between Sigourney Weaver and Harrison Ford in the comedy, Working Girl, about a receptionist, Tess McGill, who steals her boss’ life after the villainous Katharine Parker (Weaver) took Tess’ idea. At its heart is the struggle of a working class girl: can someone without a college education succeed in business? You could ask Diane Hendricks, the co-founder and chairman of ABC Supply, a wholesale supplier of roofing, siding and windows in America with net worth of $6.2 billion.

Image result for second act film

In Second Act, Lopez plays Value Shop assistant manager Maya Vargas. She has turned an ailing store around by allowing customers to choose cuts of meat online and providing a space with free coffee where shoppers can talk. Maya knows customer taste. When a promotion comes along (no, not a two-for-one), she is disappointed to be overlooked in favour of a college-educated white guy whose buzz words attract flies. Maya quits in disgust. Then a husband of a friend creates a social media profile for her complete with a degree from Harvard Business School and some Peace Corps volunteering experience and suddenly she has a job interview at a cosmetics company where she is hired as a consultant. Her criticism of the current line of products draws ire from some of the staff, notably the boss’ daughter Zoe (Vanessa Hudgens). The women are placed in opposing teams to come up with the next exciting revenue earner.

The writers Justin Zackham and Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas give us the set pieces that we expect, notably when Maya’s lack of coxing experience is exposed. Then there is a plot twist that is something out of a telenovella, Lopez having one eye on the Latin audience.

Does it work? Well, in spite of the twist which does at least overcome the problem of some antagonistic female-led comedies – one woman having to supplant another to be successful – much of the film feels tired. There is the guy in the firm who tries to unpick Maya’s past and a dance sequence choreographed by Mandy Moore (La La Land) that is a stand in for a fist fight. Then there a bunch of doves that are released only to collide with traffic, a gag that would not be out of place in director Peter Segal’s 1994 directorial debut, The Naked Gun 33 1/3 – The Final Insult. Personally, I prefer the police light tracking shots during a space dog-fight.

Lopez is an empathetic presence but the comedy heavy lifting is provided by the supporting cast, including Charlyne Yi as an office worker with a fear of heights and a kinky side, Annaleigh Ashton as an unconfident researcher who trips a woman over to better talk cosmetics and, best of all, Leah Remini as the straight-talking best friend, Joan. Remini has an inspired moment when during a conversation in the kitchen with Maya and to show how relaxed and ‘blown-out’ she is undoes her trouser button. Okay, it is not on a par with Marisa Tomei illustrating her body clock in My Cousin Vinny but it takes you by surprise.

The film is backed by STX, which has predominantly Chinese finance behind it, so there is the obligatory scene where, for a business meeting, Maya pretends to speak the language, having words recited to her through an ear piece by a veterinarian.

It’s not just the plot that feels retro. At one point, Maya’s trying-too-hard-to-impress make over causes Joan to remark, ‘oh my God, you look like Mrs Doubtfire’. The film has one eye on the audience who first enjoyed Lopez in Anaconda.

As far as a trip to the multiplex goes, Second Act feels second choice. It doesn’t have anything interesting to say about social media makeovers. Yet, I didn’t hate it. I know that’s faint praise, but there is something enjoyable about Maya’s Value Shop colleagues pretending to be her friends from Harvard. You’ll smile at least once – honest. If I haven’t mentioned Milo Ventimiglia as Maya’s love interest, Trey, it is because he isn’t germane to your enjoyment, though he cheer-leads well.


Second Act is in cinemas from Friday 25 January 2019

91st Academy Awards 2019 – Nominations!

Academy Award nominations come every year and each year, we’re surprised by this year’s nominations. It feels exciting but in that bad way where your chasing your baby’s pram down a flight of stairs whilst there’s an almighty shoot out going on.

Roma
and The Favourite lead the back with 10 Oscar nominations, Vice, Green Book, and A Star is Born is following close behind with some hefty nominations.

There are some happy surprises:  The Balled of Buster Scruggs gets some nods with Best Original Screenplay, Best Song, and Best Costume Design. Border gets a nod for Best Costume Design which is brilliant. Sam Elliot finally has his Best Supporting Actor nod and Yalitza Aparicio is nominated for Best Actress in Roma. Also Melissa McCarthy has a Best Actress nomination which makes me so happy.

We’re thrilled about all the love for Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse too!

Look, this year it is full of some interesting nominees but it feels stained and rotten. Genuine movies such as Eighth Grade miss out over the same political and white saviour stories that have propped up the industry for a long time. The whole ridiculous mess of Best Directors and Best Picture nods reminds me of the article I wrote just a couple of weeks ago for the BAFTAs. I’m just going to copy and paste it here:-

There are plenty to throw into the mix that have created some of the most critical acclaimed and impeccable pieces of cinema this year: Lynne Ramsay, Chloe Zhao, Desiree Akhavan, Marielle Heller, Debra Granik, and more!  I mean Green Book, Bohemian Rhapsody, and Vice over movies such as You Were Never Really Here and The Rider? I mean…come on, film industry, we can do so much better than this.

We all talk about diversifying the field, but when it comes to actually showing up and nominating, we seem to be lacking. We can do better.

Image result for you were never really here gif

Here’s the full list of nominations: 

Best Supporting Actor:

Mahershala Ali (“Green Book”)

Sam Elliott (“A Star is Born”)

Adam Driver (“BlacKkKlansman”)

Richard E. Grant (“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”)

Sam Rockwell (“Vice”)

Best Supporting Actress:

Amy Adams (“Vice”)

Marina De Tavira (“Roma”)

Regina King (“If Beale Street Could Talk”)

Emma Stone (“The Favourite”)

Rachel Weisz (“The Favourite”)

Best Actor:

Christian Bale (“Vice”)

Bradley Cooper (“A Star is Born”)

Willem Dafoe (“At Eternity’s Gate”)

Rami Malek (“Bohemian Rhapsody”)

Viggo Mortensen (“Green Book”)

Rami Malek (“Bohemian Rhapsody”)

Best Actress:

Yalitza Aparicio (“Roma”)

Glenn Close (“The Wife”)

Lady Gaga (“A Star Is Born”)

Olivia Colman (“The Favourite”)

Melissa McCarthy (“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”)

Olivia Colman (“The Favourite”)

Best Director:

Spike Lee “BlacKkKlansman”

Pawel Pawlikowski, “Cold War”

Yorgos Lanthimos, “The Favourite”

Alfonso Curaron, “Roma”

Adam McKay, “Vice”

Best Picture:

“Black Panther”

“BlacKkKlansman”

“Bohemian Rhapsody”

“Green Book”

“The Favourite”

“Roma”

“A Star is Born”

“Vice”

Best Adapted Screenplay:

“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” (Joel Coen and Ethan Coen)

“BlacKkKlansman” (Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott and Spike Lee)

“Can You Ever Forgive Me?” (Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty)

“If Beale Street Could Talk” (Barry Jenkins)

“A Star Is Born” (Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper and Will Fetters)

Best Original Screenplay:

“The Favourite” (Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara)

“First Reform” (Paul Schrader)

“Green Book” (Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie and Peter Farrelly)

“Roma” (Alfonso Cuaron)

“Vice” (Adam McKay)

Best Original Score:

“Black Panther”

“BlacKkKlansman”

“If Beale Street Could Talk”

“Isle of Dogs”

“Mary Poppins Returns”

Best Original Song:

“All the Stars” (“Black Panther”)

“I’ll Fight” (“RBG”)

“The Place Where Lost Things Go” (“Mary Poppins Returns”)

Shallow (“A Star is Born”)

“When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings” (“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”)

Best Documentary Feature:

“Free Solo”

“Hale County This Morning, This Evening”

“Minding the Gap”

“Of Fathers and Sons”

“RBG”

Best Foreign Language Film:

“Capernaum” (Lebanon)

“Cold War” (Poland)

“Never Look Away” (Germany)

“Roma” (Mexico)

“Shoplifters” (Japan)

Best Animated Feature:

“Incredibles 2”

“Isle Of Dogs”

“Mirai”

“Ralph Breaks the Internet”

“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”

Best Costume Design:

“Ballad of Buster Scruggs”

“Black Panther”

“The Favourite”

“Mary Poppins Returns”

“Mary Queen of Scots”

Best Film Editing:

“BlacKkKlansman”

“Bohemian Rhapsody”

“The Favourite”

“Green Book”

“Vice”

Best Animated Short Film:

“Animal Behavior”

“Bao”

“Late Afternoon”

“One Small Step”

“Weekends”

Best Live Action Short Film:

“Detainment”

“Fauve”

“Marguerite”

“Mother”

“Skin”

Best Sound Editing:

“Black Panther”

“Bohemian Rhapsody”

“First Man”

“A Quiet Place”

“Roma”

Best Sound Mixing:

“Black Panther”

“Bohemian Rhapsody”

“First Man”

“Roma”

“A Star is Born”

Best Cinematography:

“Cold War”

“The Favourite”

“Roma”

“Never Look Away”

“A Star is Born”

Best Documentary Short Subject:

“Black Sheep”

“End Game”

“Lifeboat”

“A Night at the Garden”

“Period. End of Sentence.”

Best Makeup & Hairstyling:

“Border”

“Mary Queen of Scots”

“Vice”

Best Visual Effects:

“Avengers: Infinity War”

“Christopher Robin”

“First Man”

“Ready Player One”

“Solo: A Star Wars Story”

Best Production Design:

“Black Panther”

“The Favourite”

“First Man”

“Mary Poppins Returns”

“Roma”


91st Academy Awards Ceremony screens on the 24th February.