Magnolia Pictures
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten for Shockya d-based on Rotten Tomatoes
Grade: B
Director:  Benjamin Dickinson
Written by:  Benjamin Dickinson, Micah Bloomberg
Cast: Benjamin Dickinson, Nora Zehetner, Dan Gill, Alexia Rasmussen, Reggie Watts
Screened at: Review, NYC, 1/28/16
Opens:  March 11, 2016

Restaurants ideally are not simply places to fuel up but to savor good food and enjoy the company of your dining companions.  Whenever I’m in such an establishment I look around and find that the young people, the millennials as they’re called, could be sitting in pairs or at individual tables in which four or more seats are occupied.  More often than not, I’m astounded that a typical foursome may not be communicating with one another, but rather, each individual is texting friends that exist somewhere in outer space.  I’m thinking, if I were sitting with a friend who spent time doing this, I might consider walking out, but today’s young generation appear to be completely at ease with the setup.  This leads me to think that technology, however fascinating and useful in our digital age, is causing the death of intimacy.  This theme, call it “Technology and the Death of Intimacy,” is on display in a social satire by Benjamin Dickinson which he wrote with Micah Bloomberg, focusing on a hip young ad executive who presumably lives in the hip Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.  This handsome fellow who goes by the name of David (Benjamin Dickinson, the writer-director) works for a sterile ad agency populated by equally young people.  He has finally risen to the point in which he has some creative control over a product he is assigned to market, Augmenta, a pair of glasses that the user puts on and which allows him not only to email (the emails do not require a monitor to read but appear simply in space) but, more important and far more amazing, the user can create avatars. These are embodiments of persons, so that—getting back to the restaurant analogy–even a lone diner can go beyond talking to a friend on an iPhone, beyond texting scores of his friends, but can actually create the full likeness of the person he would like to sit with him.  One may never have to be alone again.

Do you see anything wrong with this?  I suspect that writers Dickinson and Bloomberg are concerned that we will become more attached to avatars than to the real human beings, particularly since the wearer of these Augmenta glasses can fashion individuals exactly to their liking.  Who needs to put up with conflicts from unpredictable others?

To get this point across, this film, employing the talent of cinematographer Adam Newport-Berra who photographs in black and white while using spare color when honing in on an avatar, is a slick production with superb digital effects demonstrating David’s downward spiral just as he has been given creative control.  Envious of the agency’s womanizing photographer, Wim (Dan Gill), attracted to Wim’s girlfriend Sophie (Alexia Rasmussen) who works in the agency, David has his own relationship with Juliette (Nora Zehetner), an attractive yoga instructor. David’s polar opposite is a woman whose profession involves helping people relax.  David, however, has become so stressed out that he pops pills regularly and downs Scotch to such an extent that he forsakes human connection, retreating into his digital world.  If you can’t have Sophie, why not have sex with her avatar?

“Creative Control” features Reggie Watts as a hirsute fellow who appears both in real life and in David’s digital world, spouting ideas so quickly that we wonder how he could have known so much about the product.  Though much literature and many movies deal with relationships gone sour, this movie is right up there in the 21st century, spoofing our increasing dependence on electronic technology that will remind you of Dave Eggers book “The Circle,” which for my money is the most entertaining and prescient warning of the dangers of alternate realities.

Rated R.  97 minutes.  © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B+
Acting – B
Technical – A-
Overall – B+


By Harvey Karten

Harvey Karten is the founder of the The New York Film Critics Online (NYFCO) an organization composed of Internet film critics based in New York City. The group meets once a year, in December, for voting on its annual NYFCO Awards.

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