Having a Little Work Done in Order to Keep Working

Jennifer Phang, NYC, 6/19/15

Jennifer Phang, NYC, 6/19/15

I’ve always been a fan of science fiction, although the majority of the genre’s women are merely intergalactic babes (looking at you, Barbarella). Even the great Uhura (Nichelle Nicols) was relegated to the role of the Enterprise’s receptionist. And Ripley, Sigourney Weaver’s kick-ass space commando, undeniably played as a powerful woman, is a unisex role and could have easily been written for a man.

Not so Gwen Koh (played with quiet intensity by co-writer Jacqueline Kim), the protagonist of director/co-writer Jennifer Phang’s feminist feature, the elegantly dystopian “Advantageous,” which recently had its New York premiere at BAMcinemaFest.

The fascinating film is set in the near future, a time of grotesque economic inequality and fierce pushback against prior progress made by women. Gwen, a single mother, lives with her beloved adolescent daughter Jules (Samantha Kim) in a small and spartan modern apartment in an unnamed city. Obsessed with giving Jules a private school education, an “advantage” guaranteeing a future free from deprivation, Gwen is suddenly threatened with the loss of her job just as Jules is accepted at a prestigious school.

Very attractive, Gwen has long been resigned to her commodification by her employer (and that of all women by society in general). But she’s no longer young enough, and her role as the spokesperson for the Orwellian-named Center for Advanced Health and Living will be terminated unless she’s willing to literally become the face (and body) of the company’s latest product.

The gorgeous special effects in “Advantageous”–including the architecture/skyline and tech devices that are all but installed in the body–create just enough “future” and were likely realized on a budget less than the cost of one day’s craft service for “Blade Runner.”

Foreboding and dread run parallel with the beauty Phang created. She says, “I hope the film isn’t prophetic, rather, a warning, a cautionary tale.”

“Advantageous” opens Friday, June 26 at Cinema Village.

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