Skillfully made and very much of-the-moment, the indy techno-drama Creative Control is most effective as a delivery system for a mood of chic future-doom. If you’ve ever suspected that the wired-in, multi-screen culture we live in is likelier to leave us more isolated than connected to each other, this movie will confirm your fears.
Co-writer and director Benjamin Dickinson plays David, an ad agency whiz in a near-future Brooklyn, where he and his fellow bright young things tell each other to “stay hip” and describe midtown Manhattan as “emotional Afghanistan.” (The dialogue, co-written by Dickinson, is confidently smart-ass, while the black-and-white cinematography and digital effects are stylish.)
David lives with yoga instructor Juliette (Nora Zehetner), but he brings his work home with him quite literally when he wins the new account for virtual-reality spectacles from a tech firm named Augmenta. (Think Google glasses on steroids, mixed with the android vision of the Terminator flicks, and you’ll get the idea.)
Testing the product in his daily life, and coasting on an increasingly toxic combo of booze and pills, David starts blurring the line between actual reality and the digital sort he can create with his new eyewear. In particular, he starts falling for a digital avatar he creates, made in the likeness of Sophie (Alexia Rasmussen), girlfriend of David’s fashion photographer pal Wim (an amusingly repulsive Dan Gill).
As a matter of fact, David and “Sophie” are soon having a torrid affair. Which makes his relationship with the real-life Sophie increasingly awkward and surreal. Meanwhile, strains develop in his relationship to Juliette, who drifts into the orbit of a fellow yoga instructor.
Creative Control feels like an odd, interesting hybrid of the sci-fi romance Her, the substance abuse drama Requiem for a Dream and of course that ad agency touchstone, Mad Men. The movie feels longer than it is, though, probably because it’s hard to care much about any of these vapid, self-centered people.
As a director, Dickinson doesn’t quite nail the sweet spot that could make us both sympathize with and mock them. Like the kind of sleek, arid technical future it shows us, Creative Control is a movie that’s easier to admire than to actually like.
Creative Control. With Benjamin Dickinson, Nora Zehetner, Dan Gill, Alexia Rasmussen. Directed by Dickinson. Rated R. 97 minutes. At Landmark Midtown Art Cinema.