|Directed by||Jennifer Phang|
|Music by||Timo Chen|
Advantageous is a 2015 American science fiction drama film directed by Jennifer Phang and written by Jacqueline Kim and Jennifer Phang. The film stars Jacqueline Kim, James Urbaniak, Freya Adams, Ken Jeong, Jennifer Ehle, and Samantha Kim. The film was released exclusively to Netflix on June 23, 2015.
Set in the near future, Gwen sells cosmetic procedures for the Center For Advanced Health And Living. Despite her relatively affluent position, she works below scale and is having difficulty sustaining a lifestyle that will ensure her daughter, Jules, has a solid education and future. When she is abruptly fired from her job, Gwen's optimism quickly dissolves as she realizes that the only offer she has for employment is as an egg donor, as women are rapidly becoming infertile. The firing comes at a critical juncture in Gwen's life because she needs money to secure Jules's position at an elite school.
Desperate, Gwen reaches out to her old employers, asking Fisher to use her as one of the first subjects for a procedure that will transfer her consciousness into a new body, allowing her to keep her old job by becoming more youthful and racially ambiguous. Fisher assures her that if she agrees to the body transfer, the center will do everything they can to ensure Jules's future and protect Gwen as the face of the company. He also warns her that the procedure is still in its infancy; for a year, Gwen will have to take shots every two hours to help her breathe and will face enduring pain. He explains that the technology is not finished yet and begs her to reconsider. He also admits to her that her memories that transfer over to the new body, not necessarily her consciousness. This means that the real Gwen will cease to exist after this transformation. Gwen pleads that Jules never finds out about this out. Worrying that she will not be able to find another job at her age, Gwen makes plans to undergo the procedure.
Before agreeing to the procedure, Gwen tries one last desperate measure. She reaches out to her cousin Lily and Lily's husband Han for help. Gwen and Han had an affair years ago, and, though Lily is forgiving of the affair, her attitude changes once she learns that Gwen has a child fathered by Han. She tells Gwen they need more time to think about helping her, especially considering the suddenness of the news, but Gwen tells them that she has no time. Lily says she and her husband cannot spare the money, as they have children of their own.
Gwen breaks the news of her procedure to Jules, who seems understanding. Together, they go to see Gwen's future body. After spending Christmas with Jules, Gwen completes the procedure and returns home in a new body, Gwen 2.0. Gwen 2.0 is unrecognizable and carries none of Gwen’s distinguishing physical traits. Post procedure, Gwen 2.0 is disoriented and in pain, but she does her work for the center well. Jules, warned that her mother might be slightly different, takes care of her and administers her shots when she has difficulty breathing. However, Gwen 2.0 has trouble understanding and relating to Jules after the procedure. She tells Fisher she wants to separate from Jules, believing that Jules can take care of herself and would prefer the time alone. Fisher is furious and reveals to Gwen 2.0 that she is not actually Gwen, but a twin that was implanted with Gwen's memories; he explains the twin process to her because he thinks it will be easier for the twin Gwen to merge with the donor's memories by learning the truth. Gwen's original consciousness died during the procedure, but she was willing to go through with it to ensure her daughter's future. Gwen 2.0 is unaffected by the news and tells Fisher the part of Gwen that loved Jules did not transfer. When she returns home, she tells Jules that her mother is dead. Jules initially hides the shot Gwen 2.0 needs to breathe but finally gives it to her. When Jules tells Gwen 2.0 she is not sure why she is alive, Gwen 2.0 reassures her that her kindness is unique to her. Jules tells her she sounds like her mother.
Gwen 2.0 sees a message from Lily and Han in which they apologize for their initial dismissal and tell her that they would like to help her and Jules. Gwen 2.0 goes to their home and breaks the news about Gwen to them. Later, she organizes a picnic so that Jules can meet Han, Lily and their boys for the first time.
A Good Neighbors Media production in association with D.K. Entertainment and I Ain't Playin' Films. Produced by Robert Chang, Jennifer Phang, Jacqueline Kim, Theresa Navarro, Moon Molson, Ken Jeong. Co-producers, James Y. Shih, Qi Luo, Sean GIllane, Liz Ortiz-Mackes, Bogdan George Apetri, Clifton Lewis. Crew: Directed by Jennifer Phang. Screenplay, Jacqueline Kim, Phang. Camera (color, HD), Richard Wong; editor, Sean Gillane, Phang; music, Timo Chen; production designer, Dara Wishingrad; costume designer, Stacey Jordan; conceptual designer, Aiyana Trotter; sound Tyson Dai; sound designer, Tyler Straub; re-recording mixer, James LeBrecht; visual effects supervisors, Catherine Tate, Ricardo Marmolejo, Jason Patnode; assistant director, Yasmine Gomez; casting, Liz Ortiz-Mackes []
Pre-Production Advantageous in its feature form debuted at Sundance 2015. The foundation of the film was originally shot by Phang and Kim as a 23-minute short film, with ITVS for Futurestates. Phang is known to be heavily involved with the filmmaking process, she directed and co-wrote the film as well as achieving a shared editing credit. Kim began as the star of the short film until Phang asked her to co-write the short into a feature. Pre-production lasted about a year while Kim and Phang took turns writing the short. The casting process was not too difficult because most of the cast were re-casts from the short. The film was influenced by Age of Innocence, Mad Men, Battlestar Galactica and Ghost in the Shell. Phang was connected with most of her VFX artists from her previous film Half Life, in 2008. Phang wanted to create a city that was not recognizable, so they filmed in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Since the budget was so low, they also could not create a city from scratch, so having many different cities for locations was ideal for Phang.
Filming Filming began in 2012 in New York City, New York when Phang was making Advantageous as a short. This foundation grew over the course of 2013-2014, when they expanded locations to Los Angeles and San Francisco, to then be released as a feature, in 2015. The Cinematographer, Richard Wong worked closely with Phang during production. He was able to find incredible masters on small sets. Lighting was created by Wong and Seng Chen. Much of the footage was also shot by Ming Kai Leung, when in Los Angeles.
Post Production Sean Gillane and Phang worked together using Premiere Pro and After Effects. They traded the cut back and forth until the end. Sean produced supplemental motion graphics and comps while editing. Phang and Sean used Dynamic Link to jump easily from Premiere Pro to After Effects when creating VFX with the VFX team. Phang needed an additional editor and met Gena Bleier, through one of her producers Moon Molson, and hired her. Bleier previously cut The Bravest, The Boldest, which then went to the Sundance and Clermont Ferrand. Phang worked with VFX Art Director, Jean Elston, and a design team to create a concept for buildings. In the script, there are two buildings, the Cryer and the Orator. The Cryer is a mannequin shaped building with water spilling down its neck, mimicking crying. The Orator has smoke coming from its mouth to express the struggle women have when they speak their mind to the world and dissipate into the sky. The buildings were designed by Elston and Phang and Executed by Catherine Tate, Ricardo Marmolejo, and Jason Patnode, working with a talented group of VFX and CG artists.
- 1. Opening 3:31
- 2. I Like It 0:30
- 3. Les Femmes 1:33
- 4. Center for Advanced Health and Living 1:46
- 5. Both 0:36
- 6. Cryer Building 1:18
- 7. You've Been Pursued 1:50
- 8. Drake 2:00
- 9. Let's Get You Something to Eat 0:49
- 10. Luncheon 2:06
- 11. Asians 0:49
- 12. End Call 0:34
- 13. Jar 0:45
- 14. Photos 2:34
- 15. Gwen Signs 3:56
- 16. The Quiet Rooms 2:02
- 17. The Experience 6:30
- 18. Tunnel 0:34
- 19. What Happened 0:41
- 20. Pier 4:06
- 21. Jules Plots 0:31
- 22. Becoming Gwen 1:42
- 23. Becoming Jules 1:34
- You can find the album on iTunes or Amazon.
Timo Chen is the composer of the soundtrack. He is a pianist, virtuoso guitarist, versatile composer, arranger songwriter, and music producer. Chen studied at the USC Community School of Performing Arts and the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. The lead, Jacqueline Kim, is a pianist, so Phang wanted to incorporate the piano in most of the soundtrack so Kim could play in the film. Phang wanted most of the songs to talk about Jesus Christ so she can focus on the theme of Patriarchy and following the leadership of men in the world. Phang started brainstorming ideas for sound, with Timo Chen during pre-production. Phang was looking for sounds that are organic and technological at the same time. Chen used a variety of different mechanisms to achieve Phang’s sound goals, including, a toothbrush, vibrator, and a professional violinist. Phang also worked with, sound designer, Tyler Straub, to create sounds that could be familiar to the audience, like Apple products.
- Jacqueline Kim as Gwen Koh
- James Urbaniak as Dave Fisher
- Freya Adams as Gwen 2.0
- Ken Jeong as Han
- Jennifer Ehle as Isa Cryer
- Samantha Kim as Jules
- Troi Zee as Amanda
- Olivia Horton as Sarai
- Jennifer Ikeda as Lily
- Mercedes Griffeth as Ginger
- Sameerah Luqmaan-Harri as Winnie
- Theresa Navarro as Olivia
- Jeanne Sakata as Soon Yang
- Matthew Kim as Ken
- Rebecca Summers as Appealing Spokesperson
- Ariana Altman as The Masked Girl
- Oscar Ariete as The Quiet Room Attendant
Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 80% of 15 surveyed critics gave the film a positive review; the average rating is 6.6/10. Metacritic rated it 59/100 based on nine reviews. Dennis Harvey of Variety called it a "thinking person's sci-fi tale" whose methodical pacing eventually slows down to a near-crawl. Leslie Felperin wrote, "Perhaps the perfect film for geeky women's studies majors, this is bursting with interesting ideas and details but has some significant flaws". Manohla Dargis of The New York Times wrote, "It’s a kick to see how effectively Ms. Phang has created the future on a shoestring even if she hasn’t yet figured out how to turn all her smart ideas into a fully realized feature." G. Allen Johnson of the San Francisco Chronicle rated it 3/4 stars and wrote that "the last half hour is so irresistibly creepy that it's sure to invoke discussion after the screening".
Alan Scherstuhl of The Village Voice wrote that the film "demands we consider just how much beauty-minded societies demand of women". Because of its unconventional structure, Scherstuhl says it is likely to alienate viewers who are looking for a traditional story. Kevin P. Sullivan of Entertainment Weekly rated it C and called it a "missed opportunity". Mike D'Angelo of The Dissolve rated it 3/5 stars and wrote that despite the feature film adaptation's filler, fans of intelligent science fiction may be interested. Diego Costa of Slant Magazine rated it 1.5/4 stars and wrote, "Advantageous's visual effects are sophisticated for a low-budget film, and the acting is pleasantly realistic, but filmmaker Jennifer Phang portrays this very near future like a universe of such quietness and sterility that it's difficult to care about its inhabitants."
Advantageous creators Jennifer Phang and Jacqueline Kim won a Sundance Special Jury Award for Collaborative Vision, and the film was nominated for the John Cassavetes Award at the Film Independent Spirit Awards.
Advantageous took home editing, score, and directing awards at the LA Asian Pacific Film Fest in 2015. The lead, Jacqueline Kim also won a jury award for her Renaissance Artist accomplishments for co-writing and starring in the feature.
- VC FilmFest - Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival
- Winnings (Special Jury Prize)
- Best Director - Narrative Feature
- Best Editing - Narrative Feature
- Shared with: Sean Gillane
- Nominee (Grand Jury Prize)
- Best Narrative Feature
- Winner (Golden Reel Award)
Ageism & Sexism Ageism and sexism are both conveyed throughout the film “Advantageous.” Gwen needing to transform into a younger body to keep her job as the face of the company, exemplifies ageism. It was agreed between Gwen and her employer that she was the best fit for the job in terms of experience and brains. This leaves the only reason for being let go be her appearance. Ageism has been an issue in the real-world issue for people in advertising and media positions like Gwen, especially for women. According to a 2018 article from the “Feminist Media Studies” journal, these platforms “signal that ageing and older people, especially women, are not newsworthy, interesting, or desirable.” Advantageous showcases how this is idea and reinforces how it is problematic in our society.
Racism Elements of racism are embodied in “Advantageous.” After Gwen’s transformation to a new host body, not only does she become a younger woman, she changes races. None of the pre-selected host bodies Gwen got to choose from were of the Asian race- Gwen’s race. This scene suggested that Asians do fit the ideal for the face of the company. Writer Jenifer Phang did this intentionally to serve as an example of discrimination against Asians in our society and the lack of Asian representation in the media. This is something that has been an issue in the United States for many years. There is a “historic trend in the underrepresentation of minorities in U.S. media, especially in the case of Asian Americans.” Advantageous highlights this trend with hopes of irradicating it.
Workplace Discrimination Gwen obviously experiences discrimination in the workplace due to her age. Not only is it unethical for the Center for Advanced Health And Living to lay off Gwen for her age, it is also illegal to do so in the real world by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. This serves as an example for how companies still find ways to rid older employees. A Health and Retirement Study(HRS) from 2018 suggest that the number of people “at least partially forced into retirement has increased from 33 percent in 1998 to 55 percent in 2014.” This is a growing issue in our society that Advantageous draws attention to.
Income Gap Gwen experiences the effects of gendered pay. At the Center for Advanced Health And Living, Gwen has “been working below rate for a while.” This is a reflection of the unequal pay between men and women in 2015. At this time, the median annual income of females was “$40,742 compared with $51,212 for men.” These statistics suggest that women were being paid on average, 20% less than men. This is a significant feminist issue that Advantageous embodies.
Not only is there an income gap between men and women in Advantageous, the income gap between the rich and poor has multiplied. US unemployment in the film is at 45% and “success is by no means guaranteed for a growing number of families.” In a 2015 interview, Phang explained how she had always perceived homelessness in science fiction as “unfair and really sad.” This film shows the audience a future where this issue is prevalent with hopes of raising awareness.
Parental Sacrifices In a social climate where competition is fierce, Gwen has to make great sacrifices as a single mother in order to provide Jules with a good life. Being able to provide for Jules is the primary reason that Gwen decides to undergo her dangerous procedure. This film dives into “how much a mother is willing to do to give her child a leg up in a precarious world.” Mothers often feel pressure to participate in status safeguarding. Status safeguarding refers to “‘mothers’ urgent, sacrificial, protective work in the goal of reproducing or improving class status for their children.” In a competitive, capitalist society, this requires great sacrifices. For example, Phang witnessed this with her own mother. In an interview Phang explained how her mother served as a great inspiration to her as she “worked three jobs as once” so that she could ensure Phang had “as many opportunities as possible.” Like Gwen in Advantageous, Phang’s mother did this while “practically being a single mom” as her father was abroad.
- https://music.apple.com/us/album/advantageous-original-motion-picture-soundtrack/1022947305 Apple Music Link
- Dennis Harvey (2015-01-27). "'Advantageous' Review: Jennifer Phang's Sci-Fi Drama". Variety. Retrieved 2015-06-07.
- Yoshida, Emily (2015-05-19). "The excellent Sundance sci-fi film Advantageous is coming to Netflix". The Verge. Retrieved 2015-06-07.
- "Advantageous (2015)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2016-05-25.
- "Advantageous". Metacritic. Retrieved 2015-08-14.
- Harvey, Dennis (2015-01-27). "Sundance Film Review: 'Advantageous'". Variety. Retrieved 2015-08-14.
- Felperin, Leslie (2015-01-29). "'Advantageous': Sundance Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2015-08-14.
- Dargis, Manohla (2015-06-25). "Review: 'Advantageous' Portrays a Future Where More Things Remain the Same". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-08-14.
- Johnson, G. Allen (2015-06-25). "Indie sci-fi 'Advantageous' is irresistibly creepy". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2015-08-14.
- Scherstuhl, Alan (2015-06-23). "Daring Sci-Fi Drama 'Advantageous' Asks How Much Society Can Demand of Women". The Village Voice. Retrieved 2015-08-14.
- Sullivan, Kevin P. (2015-06-25). "Advantageous: EW review". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2015-08-14.
- D'Angelo, Mike (2015-06-23). "Advantageous". The Dissolve. Retrieved 2015-08-14.
- Costa, Diego (2015-06-24). "Advantageous". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 2015-08-14.
- Chang, Justin (January 31, 2015). "Sundance: 'Me and Earl and the Dying Girl' Wins Grand Jury, Audience Awards". Variety. Retrieved 9 August 2019.
- Lewis, Hilary (January 27, 2016). "'Carol' Leads Independent Spirit Award Nominations". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 9 August 2019.
- Edström, M. (2018). Visibility patterns of gendered ageism in the media buzz: a study of the representation of gender and age over three decades. Feminist Media Studies, 18(1), 77–93. https://doi.org/10.1080/14680777.2018.1409989
- Besana, T., Katsiaficas, D., & Loyd, A. B. (2019). Asian American Media Representation: A Film Analysis and Implications for Identity Development. Research in Human Development, 16(3-4), 201–225. https://doi.org/10.1080/15427609.2020.1711680
- The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (n.d.). https://www.eeoc.gov/statutes/age-discrimination-employment-act-1967.
- Terrell, K. (2018, December 28). Half of Workers Report Being Forced Into Retirement. AARP. https://www.aarp.org/work/working-at-50-plus/info-2018/forced-retirement.html.
- Phang, J., & Kim, J. (2015). Advantageous. Netflix. Netflix. https://www.netflix.com/watch/80038420?trackId=14170287&tctx=2%2C0%2C24ee0121-7445-44b6-a1be-85d348d481b9-100694502%2Cfd33e02a-3dfd-4106-b379-c3fcdb903d9f_23666395X3XX1624139060976%2C%2C.
- Administrator. (2020, June 11). The Gender Wage Gap: 2015; Annual Earnings Differences by Gender, Race, and Ethnicity. IWPR 2020. https://iwpr.org/publications/the-gender-wage-gap-2015-annual-earnings-differences-by-gender-race-and-ethnicity/.
- "Liu, L. A.-Y. (2021). The dubious logic of sacrifice: motherhood, crisis, and social reproduction in Advantageous (2015). New Review of Film and Television Studies, 19(2), 145–172. https://doi.org/10.1080/17400309.2021.1875725
- Ivie, E. (2020, March 19). Q&A with SF Filmmaker Jennifer Phang. 7x7 Bay Area. https://www.7x7.com/q-a-with-sf-filmmaker-jennifer-phang-1787064621.html.