Movie Review: Sci-fi on a budget can be clever, as long as you have “Creative Control”

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Here’s a lean little slice of sci-fi that proves you can be thought-provoking on a budget.

“Creative Control” is about blurring lines between virtual reality and reality and the dangers the narcissists among us face when our desires take precedence over healthy human interaction.

Co-writer/director Benjamin Dickinson stars as Dave, an ad agency exec in the very near future. VERY near. Like, not tomorrow but maybe tomorrow afternoon.

His agency lands the job of introducing the next generation Google glasses, called “Augmenta.” They’re immersive, wired in VR computers that don’t just allow you to multi-task email, Skype calls, online research and facial identification of those you meet. They offer sexual escape, allowing you to create the avatar of your sexual fantasies for…your sexual fantasies.

Yes, onanism is online, thanks to the “fully immersive” nature of Augmenta.

Dave’s a hard-bitten, hard-driven cynic who lives his life like the hero of “All That Jazz,” popping exotically shapes (with holes in them, like buttons) pills, putting drops in his eyes and listening to classical music as he faces each day.

He hires some multi-media online musician/comic/philosopher personality, “Reggie” (Reggie Watts) to conceptualize the message and utility of Augmenta. And he beta-tests the glasses himself, while he’s at it. And that’s where things get weird.

Dave lives with a gorgeous yoga instructor (Nora Zehetner) but fantasizes about Sophie, the pixie-ish girlfriend (Alexia Rasmussen) of his sexist, cheating photographer pal, Wim (Dan Gill). They flirt, and Dave thinks he has a shot. But these Wonderglasses let him skip past the “Maybe I’ll meet you at a hotel, maybe not” to full on sex — how he’d imagine it — with Sophie.

The acting never calls attention to itself — so natural we utterly believe this world, because it is totally recognizable. The fashion shoots, TV commercials where the client’s endless suggestions are inane and idiotic and must still be placated, all very “Mad Men of the Future” in nature.

The slang — “fry it,” “on trend” — is spot on. The fads? Yoga’s even more popular, as are drugs, especially caffeine.

“I would love a goat milk caramel latte – no foam.”

The effects are top drawer, almost “Ex Machina” level as digital female avatar morphs into Dave’s fantasy figure Sophie — with digital/visual noise around the edges. It is a beta test, after all. Dickinson shot “Creative Control” in black and white, with snatches of color to emphasize the reality Dave is avoiding, or succumbing to.

The story is lightweight and flimsy, and the resolution of the plot is too on-the-nose, pat, but the unfeeling nature of this future — about halfway to “Her” if you remember that film — and the mechanical nature of interactions, even sex, make “Creative Control” one of the most interesting recent exercises in film futurism.

And that makes Dickinson a filmmaker to watch.

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

Cast: Benjamin Dickinson  Nora Zehetner, Alexia Rasmussen, Dan Gill. 

Running time: 1:37
Credits: Directed by Benjamin Dickinson, script by Micah Bloomberg, Benjamin Dickinson. A Magnolia release.

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