Film Micrœview #204: Advantageous (2015)

06.29.2015 § Leave a comment

Rating: Bad.

I really wanted to like this film. It came highly recommended from a trusted friend. I believe the sci-fi genre needs more indie originality and human drama. I’m concerned about underrepresentation of women and minorities in film.

Yet I cannot recommend this film. Production values aside (not constantly offensive, just mediocre across the board), it is too scatterbrained to engage. Seemingly every other scene gestures in a new direction – ranging from potentially opening up a conversation about Nagelian philosophy of identity level stuff, to media whitewashing, to exponentially accelerating cross-generational family misunderstandings – without really saying anything about any of them, leaving it in a contorted heap of confused pointlessness.

I attended a screening of this film which the director, Jennifer Phang, attended. Her responses to audience questions were unsatisfactory.

  • One asked which present-day technologies and organizations had inspired her commentary on mistrust. “None in particular.” Sci-fi is a mirror. Really, not social media, smartphones, photoshopping, dark data, nothing?
  • One asked whether the bodies the corporation transferred folks into were human or machine in origin. The answer, Phang explained, lay on the cutting room floor. Well, you can’t leave that out while also leaving in the then inexplicable scene where the protagonist interrogates her job-hunting bot about his/its humanity. What is going on in this world of teenage prostitutes where women are experiencing a “backlash”? Men are doing fine but women are competing with androids and/or aging? Why is the leader of the big corporation an older woman then?
  • One asked what Phang wanted the audience to get out of the film, noting that it touched upon womens’ issues and race issues. She responded, “I get this question a lot. Yes, all of those issues, plus…” I don’t remember the rest of what she said, but she completely glossed over the core seed of the question. So, she wanted us to get the “issues” out of it, but nothing about them. This is my issue with the film in a nutshell. The film just touches the issues and has nothing to say about them.

The thing which bothered me the most about the film, perhaps, were the random terrorist attacks which occurred occasionally, and which characters had only mild reactions to. One of Phang’s question responses turned out to shed a little light on this. She said that one of the themes of the film was supposed to be learning to love those we don’t have close connections to. That is, once Gwen transitions to the new body she turns out to actually be a significantly new person. Perhaps the empathy failed to bridge across the culture bombing the culture portrayed was what this was about? Really not sure though.

That and one character used the made-up word “cohesify” instead of the actual word “cohere”.


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