Film: Advantageous

advantageous-2015-1If only we could decommission Michael Bay’s entire oeuvre and redistribute the budgets to smart science fiction films like Advantageous (2015). This earnest little independent could have used a few more dollars for visual polish, but otherwise it has plenty to recommend it.

In the near future, unemployment has become so dire that job prospects for young people entering the workforce—especially women—have become next-to-impossible to find. Middle-aged Gwen Kho (Jacqueline Kim) is one of the lucky ones, or so it seems: she’s the public face of an innovative biotech company, hoping to leverage her lucrative position to the best advantage of her talented daughter Jules (Samantha Kim). But when the company decides to go in a different direction, she’s faced with an impossible choice: throw away her daughter’s future, or keep her position, at great personal cost, by irrevocably altering her identity.

Alas, Advantageous doesn’t have an effects budget sufficient to fully realize its futuristic ambition. But it more than makes up for this with an intelligent script, thoughtful sociopolitical subtext, and an insightful vision of dystopia-in-progress. Samantha Kim is a very promising newcomer, while Jacqueline Kim effectively carries the narrative load. James Urbaniak, Freya Adams, Jennifer Ehle, Jennifer Ikeda, and yes, Ken Jeong, are all solid in dramatic support. Yes, the narrative pacing flags from time to time, and the tone is relentlessly solemn. But by and large it’s classy, satisfying science fiction, a haunting, feminist spin on Seconds that makes the most of limited resources.

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