In a year flush with great comedies and endearing romantic stories, SECOND ACT is here to close out the calendar with a glossy romantic comedy that connects directly to the genre’s roots. The December 21 release features Jennifer Lopez as a woman whose chance for a new professional life isn’t exactly a simple choice. The film’s appeal, however isn’t complicated at all. Here’s why SECOND ACT looks like a holiday gift to rom-com fans.
Move Forward By Looking Back
The trailer for SECOND ACT shows how the film calls back to a prime age of rom-coms. It glows with a funny, good-natured tone that reflects ’90s and ’00s comedies we love. Peter Segal’s film has all the qualities that helped make the last big wave of rom-coms so popular — and it all starts with its premise.
In SECOND ACT, Jennifer Lopez plays Maya, a middle-aged woman stuck working a dead-end job in a Wal-Mart type store. Thanks to the machinations of a couple friends, she’s given a golden opportunity to fulfill her dreams — the only problem is that it’s not an entirely honest deal. A big finance firm hires Maya, thinking she’s an accomplished consultant. Should she should take the job and have a bright future, or come clean and reveal who she really is?
The plot is just about as quintessential classic rom-com as you could get, reminding us of beloved films like MADE OF HONOR, THE WEDDING PLANNER and MAID IN MANHATTAN.
It’s right in the title: SECOND ACT is about getting another chance at happiness. That’s a big rom-com theme. Think of UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN, ENOUGH SAID, or SWEET HOME ALABAMA. These comedies all revolve around characters desperate for a fresh start, or their life’s second (or third) act.
Director Peter Segal talked about why he wanted to tell this story, and why he felt Jennifer Lopez was perfect for the film:
“As Jennifer [Lopez] and I are maturing, quote unquote, it was also an interesting challenge to tell a story about people going through their own second acts in their lives. Jennifer started out as an actress, then became bigger and bigger as the years went by and she became a brand. And she kind of went away from film, so coming back to it was a nice, refreshing challenge for her, and for me telling a different kind of story.”
So we’ve got a plucky but troubled protagonist, a case of mistaken identity, and a funny supporting cast. That’s all part of the classic rom-com formula — and there’s one more big factor.
The most endearing aspect of SECOND ACT is that it hinges on an underdog. At its heart, this is the story of Maya trying to overcome all odds to find a success that has eluded her in the past. Lopez spoke about this in an interview:
“I think people forgot about romantic comedies for a while… You need these simpler, romantic, funny looks at life…. what’s the story we can tell that really makes you take a look at your life and reevaluate it and have a little more hope for the future? Those are the kinds of movies I always love. I’m a romantic at heart, anyway. I honestly think most people are.”
Romantic comedies are a cornerstone of Hollywood storytelling, even if the genre’s popularity waxes and wanes. SECOND ACT could push the rom-com forward again, and remind us of why the genre is beloved.