Mark Reviews Movies

Creative Control


2 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Benjamin Dickinson

Cast: Benjamin Dickinson, Nora Zehetner, Dan Gill, Alexia Rasmussen, Reggie Watts

MPAA Rating: R (for strong sexual content, nudity, language and drug use)

Running Time: 1:37

Release Date: 3/11/16 (limited); 3/18/16 (wider)

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Review by Mark Dujsik | March 18, 2016

In the near future of Creative Control, technology has become an even more seamlessly integrated part of people's lives. Everything has become a bit smaller, and the shells of phones, computers, monitors, and anything else people use have become almost transparent, making the boundaries of where a piece of technology begins and ends more difficult to notice. It's a neat design concept, and it fits the way the movie eventually becomes comic parable about the dangers of ignoring the boundaries between being tempted to become immersed in technology and being a part of one's own life.

That's the moral of the story, or that's part of it, at least. In a bigger-picture sort of way, it's a movie about the way it's easy to take for granted the things and people that are—or should be—most important to a person's life. That moral is framed by a pretty straightforward relationship drama involving a quartet of friends and lovers living and working in Brooklyn.

Only one of the characters has a technology problem, and given the attention to detail that co-writer/director Benjamin Dickinson and his design team pay to the concept of the technology of this future, it's not surprising that this character's dilemma is the movie's most intriguing one. The others are sketchier in terms of the running theme, although that might be because they're simply overpowered by the visual novelty and timely significance of the central character's predicament.

Even then, that dilemma is intriguing only on a fairly superficial level. The movie's hook is a new piece of tech called Augmenta. It's a pair of glasses that allows the wearer to experience the world by way of "augmented reality." We've seen technology like this already in our own time, but these glasses are the real deal. That's the idea on which David (Dickinson) has to sell the world. He's an advertising executive for a marketing firm that has taken the creators of Augmenta on as clients.

David receives a pair of the glasses to test them out and determine the best way to sell them. They're an immediate distraction. They can identify a person by scanning his or her face. They can record a conversation and store it for a later time. David finds this out while he's talking to Sophie (Alexia Rasmussen), a fashion designer who is dating his friend Wim (Dan Gill), a womanizing fashion photographer. David is more involved in how the glasses register the conversation than with the conversation itself.

Unsurprisingly, David becomes more detached from reality—his responsibilities to his relationships, his job, his personal hygiene, etc.—as he becomes more accustomed to the glasses. There are a lot of pressures on him. He already was feeling distanced from his girlfriend Juliette (Nora Zehetner), a yoga instructor who is struggling to get to work on time, since the two moved in together. As a result, David's friendship with Sophie becomes an unhealthy obsession, which is aided by the ability to create a virtual avatar in one of the glasses' programs. He has multiple clients with whom to deal, and to help ease the stress, David has started taking pills. He takes more with each dose as his life falls apart.

Dickinson's aesthetic approach is intentionally distancing, too. The movie is presented in black-and-white, which means Adam Newport-Berra's cinematography makes the blend of the clear-colored technology into the rest of the world even more uniform. Dickinson keeps his camera at a distance (such as during a scene in which an argument between David and Juliette is viewed from outside through the windows of their apartment) or includes some kind of technological business in the frame that unavoidably draws the eye. The movie's most impressively orchestrated scene sees that level of distraction from David's point of view behind the glasses, as he tries to juggle a series of text messages of personal and professional importance, the editing of a commercial, and a video chat—during which a vital lesson about the perils of becoming too engrossed in the glasses is just another piece of meaningless noise for David.

All of this works better when Dickinson and Micah Bloomberg's screenplay is more pointed when its aims are satirical. The most memorable, funniest scene involves a commercial shoot that erupts in minor chaos as company executives begin to offer "creative" input (The irony is that the commercial is for an anti-anxiety medication). David's firm and the creators of Augmenta get exactly what they want when they put the marketing for the glasses in the hands of a multimedia artist (Reggie Watts, playing himself), and then they immediately regret the decision when they see what he has created.

Scenes such as these are few and far between, as the movie's central concern becomes one of these relationships—mainly how they collapse under the weight of these situations and interpersonal conflicts. That thread of Creative Control feels entirely generic and undercooked. It's a shame that a movie that criticizes the loss of human interaction to technology takes more pride in the imagination of the latter at the cost of the former.

Copyright © 2016 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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