Advantageous [50 New-Old Movies for the 51st Year #7]

Not long ago, I turned 50 years old!  And to add to all the real life goals and challenges that that brings, I’ve created at least one as it relates to movies and this blog–watch a film I’ve never seen before which cam out in each year of my life (thus the “Old-New” terminology), and then write a bit about it.  This is Post #7.  Spoilers ahead.  

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Directed by Jennifer Phang

Release Date:  June 23, 2015
My age then:  45 years old

What it is about:  Gwen Koh is a spokesperson for a cosmetics company who suddenly finds herself out of a job because the company is looking for a younger woman.  Desperate to make money to secure the future of her daughter Jules, in a world that seems to increasingly devalue women, she agrees to a procedure whereby her consciousness is transferred into a younger and more attractive body.  This allows her to get her old job back, but she and her daughter begin to find their relationship frayed.  Gwen eventually discovers that her new body received a copy of Gwen’s mind and memories, but is in fact a separate person, with the original Gwen having died.  She and Jules manage to come to terms wit this devastating reality and move forward in life together.

Starring Jacqueline Kim as Gwen, Freya Adams as Gwen 2.0, and Samantha Kim as Jules.  Jacqueline Kim, whom I only know as Sulu’s daughter in the abysmal Star Trek Generations, also co-wrote the film with Jennifer Phang.

Also starring Jennifer Ehle (Pride and Prejudice) as a senior employee of Gwen’s company, Ken Jeong (Community) as Jules’ father, plus Jennifer Ikeda as Gwen’s cousin, and James Urbaniak as a work colleague who tries to warn Gwen not to undergo the procedure.

My impressions of this movie before I watched it:  I had heard that it was a twisty-turny small scale science fiction film, and I think I knew that Ken Jeong was in it.

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Reality:  Advantageous is indeed a science fiction film, but only sort of incidentally.  There are a few spaceships (spaceship-like airships) and a few other bit and pieces of technology, but mostly this is all pretty incidental.  It’s main purpose is to make it plausible that Gwen’s company is offering a procedure to stick your consciousness into a younger, more attractive body.

Advantageous has also got a twist to it, but it’s a bit much to call it “twisty-turny’.  There’s just big revelation in it, and when it comes, it’s not huge startling from a plot point of view.  It’s more that you realize just how dark this world really is–that a company could somehow be selling the idea of paying to become younger and healthier, while in reality just convincing people to voluntarily die and replace themselves with younger copies.

Advantageous is actually a high-concept drama, using its near-future setting to offer only the thinnest of science fiction veils over its social commentary.  Gwen’s world is one in which women’s societal value is extremely limited, at least when they lose their youthful looks.  And of course, there’s a lot of truth to that when we look at our world.  Similarly, Gwen’s daughter is growing up driven to succeed in all ways in order to hope to get anywhere in life.  Again, it’s a message that our children are not necessarily unfamiliar with.  Gwen’s company is willing to appeal to people’s shallowest values in order sell an unethical product.  Once again, it’s not particularly unbelievable.

All this material is treated in a series of quiet and dramatic scenes that are honest and intensely challenging, with a looming sense of dread hanging over everything.  Gwen’s desperation is believable (even if I can’t actually imagine anyone doing what she does). When her family secrets with her cousin are revealed and their relationship breaks down, it’s sad.  When the cousin reaches back out to her, but too late to change the situations, its heart-breaking.  But most of all, when Gwen is replaced and the lovely and powerful bond that she has with her daughter is broken, its devastating.

Still, with all of this, the movie winds up in a surprisingly hopeful place.  I wasn’t sure at first, as I thought we were going to see Jules deliberately allow her “mother” to die by hiding her necessary medicine, but the film doesn’t descend to that place.  Instead, it shows these characters finding a new balance with each other, and figuring out a way to go forward.

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All the cast do a good job with this material, but I especially like the connection between mother and daughter as played by Jacqueline Kim and Samantha Kim (who are not, as far as I can tell, related in real life).

So…when you get down to it, what did I think?  An extremely well done allegorical drama–deeply melancholic, but ultimately uplifting.  The conclusion is only lightly developed, but it’s still sufficient for the film, and fully satisfying.

See here for the Master List.


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