Film: Creative Control

There’s something cool and interesting going on in Creative Control (2015), a modest but polished sci-fi indie that takes a few steps into the future in a tale of advertising, augmented reality, and the pressures of the digital age. Unfortunately, there aren’t a ton of likable characters to hang your hat on, which makes it tough to get too invested. Its antihero is David (Benjamin Dickinson, also director and co-writer), a self-absorbed marketing sleaze who’s managing a campaign for Augmenta, a hip new AR technology that layers slick, interactive digital features over reality. David is an obsessed workaholic whose career in marketing spin and weakness for mind-altering substances has already sent him down an unreality rabbit hole. But soon his addiction to the AR glasses takes him even further, as he begins to conflate digital fantasies with what’s actually happening in his life.

Creative Control is at its best when it keeps it simple. It has a stark, attractive black-and-white look, a quirky and understated atmosphere, and nifty visuals, which all combine in an enjoyable style. Its stew of subject matter—AR, advertising, drugs, even a subplot involving yoga—all work well together as a thematic exploration of classic Dickian themes of human control and reality confusion. Unfortunately, David is kind of a whiny asshole, surrounded by other shallow, unimpressive jerks, which make it hard to care what’s happening to him—and ultimately distracts from a worthy message. The only sympathetic characters are played by Nora Zehetner (as David’s too-forgiving girlfriend) and Alexia Rasmussen (as the unwitting object of his obsession), but unfortunately both seem there to inexplicably subordinate themselves to unworthy partners. Alas, Creative Control’s occasional moments of casual artistry and nicely intertwined themes don’t make up for the icky world of selfish, male entitlement in which they bathe. A moderately interesting film that overstays its welcome and overestimates its appeal.

Benjamin Dickinson in Creative Control

 

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