What would you do if you got a second chance at the life you always felt you were meant to lead? In Jennifer Lopez's new film, Second Act, her character Maya gets just that. After six years as the assistant manager of Value Shop, she is ready for a promotion. But after being passed over in favor of a man with an advanced degree versus her GED, Maya is left disappointed and frustrated. With some internet trickery and with the support of her best friend Joan (played by Lopez's real life bestie Leah Remini) and her boyfriend Trey (played by the dreamy Milo Ventimiglia) she is granted the opportunity of a lifetime, which leads to her second act.
Landing a position at Manhattan consumer products firm Franklin & Clarke is easy for Maya, thanks to her years of life and work experience. But her degree from Wharton, time in the Peace Corps and fluency in Mandarin don't hurt. Except those aren't skills Maya actually posses — they were bestowed upon her by her well meaning godson (the aforementioned internet trickery at play!)
Now that's she's a power player in the most glamorous part of the city (an elite firm operates in the fanciest circles of Manhattan, a far cry from Maya's life in Queens) she is getting a chance to live the life she's always deserved. But at what cost?
Recently, Moms was able to participate in a round table discussion about the film with Lopez, Remini, and the film's director Peter Segal. They discussed the inspiration behind the film, what it's like to work with your bestie, and why all women deserve a chance at a "second act" in their lives.
"For me, I feel like it's [life in her 40s] is just beginning," Lopez said, referring to the fact that her character gets to live her dream in her 40s. "There's things I haven't accomplished yet, and things I haven't done that I feel like this is going to be the best time in my life," she adds.
The idea that you can start over in your 40s and beyond is much of what drives the heart of the movie. So often people, especially women, are sold on this idea that once you turn a certain age it's impossible to make your dreams happen. But as we're finally starting to learn, this is not the case. Turning 40 isn't a life sentence — in fact, for many women it's the point where you can actually make life happen the way you want.
"I know so much more now," Lopez explained. "There were things I couldn't have done in my early 20s or 30s that I can do now. Things that I understand in such a different way." Which makes a lot of sense. As Maya has discovered, time creates experience, and learning doesn't always come in the same way for everyone. For some people, schooling is the path they take and gain knowledge and experiences that way. But for Maya, and even Jennifer Lopez herself, living life and being hands on was the best teacher they could have.
It is important to mention that Lopez is also a producer on the film, which began as an idea conceived by her producing partner Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas. Since she also had a hand in casting the film, Jennifer Lopez knew there was only person who could play Maya's best friend Joan — her real life bestie, actress Leah Remini. Their chemistry is undeniable!
"A lot of it was our real relationship," Remini admitted when talking about the relationship we see on screen between the two characters. "A lot of what you're seeing is just me being me and then Jennifer reacting to Leah being Leah," she added. It is clear that Jennifer and Leah have a great friendship — watching them sit and talk during the round table made is abundantly clear that what we saw on screen was no fluke or product of a great script, it was very real.
"These guys are like sisters," director Peter Segal notes when reflecting on time they spent together before filming began.
One of the other things Second Act really honors is the dynamic relationships between women. Joan is an incredible support system to her best friend Maya, encouraging her to go out there and live her best life, because she knows what she's capable of. In a press release for the film, Remini says, "She [Joan] believes that out of all their friends, Maya is the one who will make it. But when Maya starts to lose sight of who she really is, it's Joan who keeps her grounded."
But not all of the women Maya encounters are there to lift her up. Because of the lack of women in corporate America, some of the women she encounters in her new life, including Zoe (Vanessa Hudgens) and Hildy (Annaleigh Ashford) are not supportive — in fact they're quite cutthroat and willing to step over whoever they have to so they can get to where they want to professionally. However, Zoe does soften as she realizes Maya isn't a threat and that they can learn from each other.
When speaking on the overall message of the film, "You just have to know your passion," Remini says. "And you're not always gonna have a support group. Sometimes it's your own passion and your own persistence that gets you there. You don't need approval." Once you realize that, you have to believe in yourself and take the first step towards what you love," she adds.
Even though she's been handed these amazing opportunities (however dishonestly) Maya is the one who has the desire and drive to make her dreams happen. We have to honor that in ourselves, and if we believe we can do it, then we will move mountains to make our dreams happen, given the chance.
Jennifer Lopez and company have really made something special with Second Act. It is not just a romantic comedy — it's a movie about overcoming your own self-doubt, believing in yourself, moving through the past decisions you've allowed to define you and come into the you that you were meant to be.
"There is something that speaks to my soul about this," Lopez says about why this movie speaks to her. "Life is funny and sad and shit happens and you really get to see someone break through a deep fear that they have in side. And I think I have struggled through that in life, we all have, it's relatable."
Second Act is in theaters now, so run, don't walk to see it!