Sunday, 2 December 2018

Second Act (2018) - Movie Review"Fake it till you make it."

It’s one of the more popular pieces of self-help advice, and something that pops up fairly frequently in regards to finding employment. The idea on its own is rather interesting: By pretending that you have a higher level of confidence that you actually have, over time, it stops being pretend and it’s just you being confident. It’s good advice for all intents and purposes… but just how much do you have to fake?

This is a question I myself have brought up in my past experiences in the job market, worrying that people would end up hiring me because I was presenting a candidate that isn’t myself. Well, this latest effort from director Peter Segal, who also helmed two of the better Sandler comedies with Anger Management and 50 First Dates, looks at the logical extreme of that notion… kind of.

That’s at least what the film initially presents, both with its main premise and its trailer that features that one song that seemed to be in every 90’s film set in New York. It’s the story of Maya, an older woman trying to find a better job and who gets given a doctored resume and background to get her foot in the door. This premise already sets off some alarm bells, since the trope of characters keeping secrets from each other that get abruptly revealed just before the third act is one of the more common ones. It’s also remarkably annoying, as it usually devolves into audiences just waiting around for the lie to be revealed because it always happens. This isn’t an exception to that, unfortunately, and as much as Jenny from the block isn’t nearly as bad as she was last time we checked in on her, she and the rest of the admittedly decent cast can’t get past that problem.

Thankfully, the problem itself is dampened a bit by how the lie itself is examined, both its requirement to move the story forward and as a contributor to relationships. The liar revealed is a commonly-used trope, particularly in romantic comedies, because it’s something of a common fear within relationships: What the other person is keeping from them. While this factors into Maya’s actual romantic relationship with Trey, played by Rocky Jr. from Creed II, it also gets brought into focus alongside her connections with her co-workers, her friends and her… family. It’s rare that I feel like I need to put a spoiler tag on a single word, but as stated above, this is “kind of” about lies and how they affect relationships.

And that’s probably the biggest problem with this whole thing: It’s "kind of" about a lot of things, none of which are given as much breathing room as they need to truly flourish. While the writing can be downright slick in how it sets up certain plot points, the attempts to balance all the different plot threads leaves this film feeling quite messy. Maya managing the lie that got her the job, the highly contrived contest between her and another worker, her fears regarding family, subplots about ancillary characters, commenting on the use of business jargon in place of intelligible sentences, sexism in the workplace; it’s all too soupy to really have the effect it desires, resulting in an unfortunately scattershot production.

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