A sci-fi satire that's wildly inventive, intelligent, and ridiculously funny, Benjamin Dickinson's Creative Control isn't about life on a distant planet or in the distant future, but life here just a short while from now.
Plausible and realistic, it stars Dickinson - who also cowrote and directs - as David, a marketing expert at a New York ad agency who is given his first big project: heading the promotional push for Augmenta glasses, a wearable smartphone and computer interface that is supposed to be far more powerful and sophisticated than Google Glass.
David's assignment is to wear the product and come up with a marketing plan. As you'd expect from sci-fi stories about new tech, the story is propelled by David's increasingly unhealthy fascination with the equipment.
While it hits some of the usual sci-fi tropes, Creative Control's center of gravity isn't tech itself, but the relationships of those who use it.
The film offers well-constructed slice-of-life vignettes about the personal and professional lives of David and his loved ones. These include his wife, Juliette (Nora Zehetner), who's a yoga instructor, and his best friend, Sophie (Alexia Rasmussen), along with Sophie's partner, Wim (Dan Gill), a drug-abusing, womanizing fashion photographer.
Dickinson's camera reveals the many ways that social media, instant messages, texts, and emails draw people closer when it comes to sharing abstract ideas, while alienating us physically and emotionally. David and his friends are more comfortable texting one another from across the room than speaking face to face.
The film argues that our obsession with finding faster ways to communicate has made us hyper-uncomfortable with the rhythms of actual people.
Dickinson uses stylistic tricks to remind us there was life before computers. The film is almost entirely black and white, and its composition evokes classic Hollywood movies. There are no music-video-style jump cuts here. And the score is dominated by chamber music pieces by Vivaldi, Bach, and Mozart.
For all of that, Creative Control succeeds not because of its clever social critique and elegant filmmaking, but because it delivers its big ideas through an engaging, savagely funny story, as a man who once adored his wife falls madly in love with the virtual-reality woman he sees through his glasses.
Directed by Benjamin Dickinson. With Benjamin Dickinson, Nora Zehetner, Dan Gill, Alexia Rasmussen, and Reggie Watts. Distributed by Magnolia Pictures.
Running time: 1 hour, 37 mins.
Parent's guide: R (strong sexual content, nudity, profanity, drug use).
Playing at: Ritz at the Bourse.