'Creative Control' explores the potential of artificial reality (R)

Beautiful, smart, exhilarating and risky, Creative Control is the most satisfyingly ambitious and excitingly fresh movie I’ve seen in a while. And I don’t say that lightly.

In this remarkably confident, stylish sci-fi effort from director/co-writer Benjamin Dickinson, the filmmaker plays David, who helps his marketing agency land the account for Augmenta, which looks like regular glasses but actually offers an “Augmented Reality System” to visually enhance real life.

If that sounds like a lot to process, it’s not – unlike pretentious, jumbled nonsense like Shane Carruth’s Primer and Upstream Color, the black-and-white Creative Control achieves complexity without confusion and intelligence without sacrificing entertainment value. (AR is a real thing, by the way, which I did not know.)

David suggests giving a pair of the AR glasses to a genius and seeing what that person comes up with (that person is James Corden’s bandleader Reggie Watts, playing himself), but David also tests a pair to familiarize himself with the product. And mostly winds up using it to fantasize about Sophie (Alexia Rasmussen), the girlfriend of his sleazy best friend (Dan Gill of The Wedding Ringer) who constantly texts naked pictures of other girls he’s hooking up with.

For the most part, Dickinson pulls off something extremely difficult here: It’s a low-budget effort that looks great. It’s an intimate look at relationships with big-time sexual energy. And it’s a tech-based drama that requires no knowledge of the mechanisms behind these devices.

Sure, the setup has a certain Joey/Chandler/Kathy vibe to it. But Dickinson possesses a delicate understanding of interpersonal chemistry–during one of many moments of insufficient communication between David and his girlfriend, Juliette (Nora Zehetner of Brick), he tells her, “You can tell I want to have sex, right?” – and makes the reasons people do or don’t stray or stay together as complicated as they really are.

If only he could stick the landing; the degree to which David believes in the authenticity of his AR relationship, neglecting to confront it in real life, doesn’t hold up. Yet the depiction of our interactions with technology and the world’s relationship with creativity in Creative Control never feels like a cautionary tale, only a vivid, at times hilarious illustration. The film marks the arrival of a really promising triple threat who, like the Augmenta, sees the value in engaging the imagination. The question is how much the ordinary, flawed mind can handle.

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

Director:  Benjamin Dickinson.

Screenwriters: Benjamin Dickinson, Micah Bloomberg.

A Magnolia Pictures release. Running time: 97 minutes. Strong sexual content, nudity, language, drug use. In Miami-Dade: Sunset Place, Aventura.

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