Advantageous movie full length review - seductive but with a fatal flaw
hmmm, lots of people loved this film...and undoubtedly it is beautifully crafted and the acting is exceptional. The whole atmosphere draws you in with both poetry and passion, stylistically it is subtle but powerful.
Yet the heart of the movie is the philosophical and spiritual meaning of the mother and daughter relationship between Gwen and Jules, and here there is a paradox which is the climax of the plot, and which the entire film depends on to work. This paradox, however is glossed over. The film would've worked better had it been confronted more clearly. As it was, it strained the credibility of the message of the film.
Gwen decides she must put her daughter's needs before all else. That's understandable, she loves her daughter, they have a deep connection, and only have each other in a sterile and insecure world where the status of women depends on their marketability and connections. Nothing groundbreaking there. To help her daughter, Gwen must take action when she loses her job.
As you watch it, ask yourself: does Gwen's decision really match her deepest values as a mother? Was there really no better alternative?
Here's the spoiler:
Gwen decides to sacrifice the one thing that her daughter needs more than anything...her own mother... So that Jules can go to an elite school. Where the other mothers are horrid, vapid things, whom Gwen clearly dislikes. Can that really be the best thing for Jules? Gwen seems despairing of the way the world is. Yet she sacrifices the most precious things in both their lives so that Jules can become the same commodity that Gwen became. WTF???
Several times the question is raised: why am I here? Why am I alive? But this question is glossed over. Gwen's best answer seems to be that she didn't know what the point of her life was until she had Jules, then Jules became the point of her life. So then she sets things up so that Jules can live the same kind of pointless life? WTF???
Gwen attempts to hide the truth from her daughter. This was the weakest point in the whole script. Presumably it was supposed to highlight Gwen's understanding that the most important thing to Jules was her relationship with her mother, the most real and secure thing she had in the world. And not let her feel guilty about her mother's sacrifice. Yet Gwen's decision destroyed this relationship. And clearly a smart, sensitive kid like Jules is going to work out pretty quickly that something is seriously wrong.
The last scenes ironically show the alternative decision that Gwen could've made. A simpler life with family rather than status giving security and meaning to life. The film asks us to believe that this option wasn't possible because the chance came too late. Well, that only works if you buy the premise that Gwen couldn't imagine that Jules could've have been happier with a working class life, even home schooled, but with her real mother.
For me this film would have had a far stronger feminist message had Gwen rejected the roles that society imposed on herself and her daughter, even if it meant being poor and old.
Finally Gwen also knowingly participated in a con that not only actively encouraged many other people, especially women, to be insecure about their aging, but amounted to being an accessory to their murder. Yet the film barely touches on this, except to emphasize the sacrifice Gwen made for her daughter. Hmmm.
This film seduces the viewer but left a nasty taste in my mouth at the end.