Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Sundance ’15: Advantageous
can make a dystopia look like a utopia. As the spokesperson for a major
cosmetic engineering firm, it is Gwen Koh’s job to convince consumers to buy
into this brave new world, but she is not getting any younger. This fact of
life has serious economic and social repercussions in Jennifer Phang’s Advantageous, which screens during the
2015 Sundance Film Festival.
the near future, Koh has already beat the odds finding high profile employment
as a single mother. Inconveniently, her luck is about to run out at the worst
possible time. Her thirteen year old daughter Jules has been turned down by her
preferred prep school, but she was accepted by her nearly as prestigious but
twice as expensive second choice. She should also attend a pricey summer camp
for incoming students or risk losing ground before classes even start. However,
Koh’s employers have just declined to renew her contract, opting to replace her
with someone younger.
will try reaching out to estranged family members, but her best hope might
entail returning to her former employers as the guinea pig-public face for
their newest, most radical procedure. Unfortunately, the process might not be
exactly what they report it to be. Koh is clearly willing to sacrifice for her
daughter, but it might cost her far more than will be immediately apparent.
her ITVS Futurestates short to feature length, Phang and lead actress-co-writer
Jacqueline Kim create a compellingly personal vision of a futuristic dystopia. Frankly,
some of their contentions fly in the face of recent trends, such as disproportionately
high unemployment for women, when middle age men have been hit the hardest in
recent years. Nevertheless, they evoke a compelling sense of economic vulnerability.
Advantageous is truly relationship-driven
science fiction, especially Koh’s overriding love for her daughter. As Gwen and
Jules Koh, Jacqueline and Samantha Kim will pretty much break your heart as
their drama plays out. Frankly, once circumstances remove the former Kim from
the picture, Advantageous loses some
of its bite. Indeed, the third act largely feels like an overlong epilogue,
except for a key scene with James Urbaniak (Simon Grim in Hal Hartley’s Henry Fool and its sequel). While he
initially comes across like just another corporate suit, his relationship with
Gwen Koh evolves in an intriguing way, further deepening the film.
scrupulously maintains its micro focus, it still presents an impressive looking
vision of the future. It is a lot like our world, but one or two steps closer
to Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. Its
anti-corporate, feminist biases can get a little clunky, but the performances
of Kim, Kim, and Urbaniak (helmed with remarkable sensitivity by Phang) more
than compensate. Recommended for those who appreciate science fiction with psychological
complexity, Advantageous screens
again this morning (1/28), tomorrow (1/29), and Friday (1/30) in Park City, as
well as this Saturday (1/31) in Salt Lake, as part of this year’s Sundance Film
Labels: Dystopian Cinema, Sundance '15