Second Team

By Ria Pavia | Comedy
A scorned stand-in actor for a hit TV show distorts the script to berate her costar.

Jackie and Molly are a couple who have just broken up. They also work together as stand-ins on a sitcom, serving as the lead actors' substitutes on set when they go on break. Despite their breakup, Jackie and Molly both strive to remain professionals in their work despite the drama between them.

But as the shooting day wears on, they find it harder to maintain their facade of civility. As the cast and crew look on, Jackie and Molly run the lines of the script, but each story beat is laced with their increasing tension -- until it erupts into an outright brawl that brings all emotion to the surface.

Directed by Ria Pavia from a script written by Anni Weisband, the film begins with a send-up of a standard-issue sitcom a la Two Broke Girls. From the abundant vocal fry to the tossing of perfectly tousled hair, the satire is shot with the uncanny gloss of sitcom TV and performed with brilliantly put-on affectation by actors Gigi Zumbado and Greer Grammer as they work through an insipid scene full of lame jokes and even lamer characters. Even the video village of script supervisors, producers and assistant directors think so, barely disguising their boredom as they watch on and skewer the onscreen proceedings.

We think we're settling into a satirical commentary on media, TV and images of women as the scene runs, but when the second team of stand-ins gets called in so that camera and lighting can make adjustments without taxing the "real" actors, the narrative morphs to a post-breakup workplace dramedy. The visual approach shifts, with more naturalistic lighting and hand-held camerawork, but there's also a shift in the emotional tenor. Jackie and Molly's feelings as ex-lovers forced to work in close quarters are very real, full of rage, betrayal and contempt. But they have to work together, so they put on a veneer of professionalism and civility.

Actors Francia Raisa (who audiences may know from the series Grown-ish and How I Met Your Father) and Danielle Savre play the ex-lovers and consummate professionals, who patiently endure the barked commands of the crew and the perfunctory adjustments as they deal with their thornier feelings. As they rehearse the scene, each line of faux-adorable dialogue offers a small reveal of real emotion, making seemingly perky lines into subversive weapons of accusation and aggression. All of it is watched by the video village, who soon find the lame onscreen drama replaced by a real-life one that compels their attention as Molly and Jackie finally drop all pretense of professionalism and lay all their tumultuous drama bare.

Well-paced, sharply observed and smart, "Second Team" ends in an eruption of anger, pain and lust, and an equally funny volley of one-liners and quips from the Greek chorus of onlookers. Though the explosion is exaggerated and played for laughs, it's relatable for anyone who has ever had unfinished emotional business with an ex. The ending is also smart in showing the contrast between the acceptable emotional expression we portray in media and the messier, unrulier feelings of real life. On the page, the "two millennial girls" experience conflict, disappointment and anger, but it's defanged with silly jokes and shellacked with the need for women to be cutely acceptable. But "Second Team" delights in showing the real, raw rage and pain of complex women, and gives it a uniquely funny arena to come out in all its realness.

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