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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Advantageous - A Film Review

Advantageous is a 2015 dystopian sci-fi drama directed and co-written by Jennifer Phang and starring Jacqueline Kim (also co-writer), Freya Adams, James Urbaniak, Jennifer Ehle, Jennifer Ikeda, Samantha Kim, and Ken Jeong. The film is a feature film expansion of Phang’s short film, produced for the sci-fi short film anthology web series FUTURESTATES. The film is a feminist sci-fi look at aging, identity, the female place in modern society, and wealth in the late 21st century. It is a fascinating film about technology and modern selfhood, especially as it comes to the price of using technology to become a better person.

Gwen Koh (Jacqueline Kim) is a middle-aged single mother who has been the public, yet underpaid, face of the seemingly innocent corporation that she works for, until she is demoted on account of her age and not being youthful or marketable enough for their faster technology-based future. She is struggling to support herself and her daughter Jules (Samantha Kim), and wants to send Jules to an elite prep school where a successful future would be guaranteed for her.

 Gwen hustles to come up with the money through egg donation, job interviews, and checking her bank balances, but is at a disadvantage in a society that celebrates youth and wealth. The class differences are stark in this world, with examples such as stunning visuals of grand, opulent city life contrasted with lonely poor neighbors crying in their apartments and news reports on teen prostitution.

Gwen and Jules share a vital relationship, especially with a single mother and only child. They share a close and loving bond, and need each other for love, family, and human connection in a tech-driven world. It is not only their financial future that is important, but their loving bond that is crucial to maintain as a family.

In order to ensure a future for both herself and for Jules, Gwen decides to use herself as a test subject for a new and experimental procedure developed by her company, where her identity would be placed inside of a younger body, as a chance to live life anew. The procedure would raise her advantage in the industry as a youthful and valuable member of society, and would allow for her daughter to have the best in society. Gwen justifies her procedure, saying, “I can’t let her become one of these women so desperate that they would do anything.” It is a risky move that Gwen takes in undergoing the procedure, and the third act of the film is a heartbreaking twist, as the real cost of the procedure is revealed, and is a sad and painful look at how women are valued in society based on beauty and social worth.

Advantageous stands out as not only one of the best science-fiction films of the year, but as one of the best films of the year, period. The film has an inventive story that touches to the core of human identity, aging, and mortality. The film won the Sundance Jury Prize for Collaborative Vision in January, played to a sold-out audience at BAMcinemaFest and is currently streaming on Netflix. I highly recommend this film.

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