Advantageous (2015)

Director: Jennifer Phang
Writer: Jacqueline Kim, Jennifer Phang
Cast: Jacqueline Kim, Samantha Kim, James Urbaniak, Freya Adams, Ken Jeong, Jennifer Ehle, Jennifer Ikeda
Seen on: 2.7.2021

Gwen (Jacqueline Kim) has been the face for a big cosmetics and aesthetic surgery company for a while and she hopes that with the introduction of a revolutionary new product, she will get a raise – a raise that would mean that her daughter Jules (Samantha Kim) could afford to continue to go to school. Instead Gwen is informed that she has become too old for the job, making her consider some very risky options for Jules’s sake.

Advantageous is a really excellent Science Fiction film, in both the sense that it is just a good movie and that it builds a very interesting, and scarily realistic future. The pacing isn’t perfect, but other than that, I really liked it.

The film poster showing a large letter A in front of a light blue wallpaper-like background. Inside the letter A, we can see Gwen (Jacqueline Kim) wearing a strange cap with wires coming from it.

The world Advantageous shows is an interesting mix of the familiar and the imagined. Cities still look very much the same, people still wear pretty much the same clothes, but technology has advanced, surveillance is everywhere and explosions have become quite routine. And the film is very clear in how the gap between rich and poor has widened – you’re either very rich, or you’re very poor, there is barely any middle ground left. And those clinging to the middle class – like Gwen – are always this close to losing everything.

There is also a gender aspect to this: with the lack of jobs, women were pushed out of the work force more and more and women who work – who have to work, like Gwen, because they don’t live in partnership with a man – are rare, frowned upon, and have to be happy to have any kind of job at all. (The film only touches on racial dynamics, though, when it is hinted at that Gwen isn’t just too old for her job, but also too Asian.)

Jules (Samantha Kim) looking critically at something.

In short, there’s a lot going on here and it pretty much all unfolds in the background of the story. Because the heart of the film is the relationship between Gwen and Jules. Phang captures the trust and love between the two wonderfully, with both Kims (from what I gather, it’s a coincidence that they both share that last name and they are not related) giving us excellent performances.

The film does have some pacing issues – it tends to be too slow. And the plot revolving around Gwen’s family didn’t quite fit into the rest of the film for me. It’s as if a bit of script was missing here. But with the world-building and the characters, the film more than makes up for those flaws.

Gewn (Jacqueline Kim) sitting thoughtfully in a park.

Summarizing: really good.

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