Editor’s Note: Creative Control opened in limited theatrical release Friday, March 11, 2016.
It’s New York in the not-to-distant future, as indicated by see-through smartphones and pills that look as though they were produced by a Play-Doh Fun Factory. Hip ad exec David (Benjamin Dickinson) is moments away from the biggest pitch of his life. He’s meeting with Augmenta, a company who has developed some spectacular augmented reality glasses. His plan is to give a pair to certified genius Reggie Watts (playing a delightfully empty-headed version of himself) and give him free reign to develop what one of David’s excitable advertising partners declares could be “a whole new art form!”
The look of the film is Wall Street meets Stardust Memories, the black and white cinematography highlighting the divide between the virtual and the real.
Creative Control, starring, co-written and directed by Benjamin Dickinson, is darkly comic science fiction, and if it tries a little too hard to be hip sometimes, that’s probably because everyone in the film does, too. Carefully coifed and usually drunk, either on booze or affected ennui, David and his yoga instructor girlfriend (Nora Zehetner) often clash within the walls of their gorgeous Brooklyn condo. He’s a nervous wreck at work, a ball of resentment at home, but at least his misery is a visually pleasant one. The look of the film is Wall Street meets Stardust Memories, the black and white cinematography highlighting the divide between the virtual and the real.
When David lands the Augmenta contract — the client seems particularly taken with Watts pretending to juggle his own testicles — he’s given a pair of the glasses for himself. The first thing he does with these bleeding-edge technological wonders is to create a little bare-bones porn and jerk off to it, as one does. The virtual woman at the center of his fantasies is Sophie (Alexia Rasmussen), the girlfriend of his sleazy friend Wim, played by Dan Gill, who will never stop looking like an extra who’s wandered off the lot of Star 80. David, quickly and predictably, begins to confuse virtual reality with real life.
Creative Control is darkly comic science fiction, and if it tries a little too hard to be hip sometimes, that’s probably because everyone in the film does, too.
Creative Control boasts a strong story that plays as though it were based on some long-forgotten, shortform science fiction of from the late 1960s. As David becomes more reliant on his constructed reality, one can’t help but be reminded of Timothy Leary’s declaration that the personal computer was “the LSD of the 1990s.” The love triangle, augmented by David and his glasses into a love pentagon, is well done and believable, and without the usual habit of romanticizing creeper behavior.
Creative Control is unique in all the right places. The film seems to be in on its own joke, though sometimes it can’t help itself and regresses into Weird Science territory, or weighs itself down with long shots and one-liners. Though it has a terrific knack for borrowing from other sources, it seems to feel a bit guilty about it. The soundtrack, for instance, is full of well-known classical pieces, but gets a bit fussy — or at least fussier than Baroque usually is — with the choice of a quirky arrangement of Handel’s Sarabande, surely meant to distance itself from all the other films that have used the same piece. But in a culture where copious quoting, borrowing, homage and collage are practically expected in cinema, Creative Control actually does it right; no metaphorical apologies are necessary.
Darkly comic and gorgeous to look at, Creative Control is a quirky and unique take on the modern romance.