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‘Creative Control’: The comic complications of virtual romance

Benjamin Dickinson and Alexia Rasmussen in "Creative Control." | Magnolia Pictures

“You’re a f—ing genius!”

“No, I’m just younger than you.” — Exchange between a 40ish tech exec and his younger protégé in “Creative Control.”

Just about everyone who plays with various filters on Instagram and other social media occasionally dips into the black-and-white options for iPhone pics or quick little videos: your “Moon,” your “Inkwell,” even your “Willow.”

And just like that, POP! Your photo or your video jumps off the screen.

Triple threat writer-director-actor Benjamin Dickinson’s cutting-edge techno-comedy-romance “Creative Control” is shot (mostly) in gorgeous, crisp widescreen black-and-white, and it’s the perfect palette for a relatively low-budget indie film with a heavy sci-fi vibe and ambitious special effects.

This is a cool, smart, funny, sexy, disturbing and consistently provocative effort.

Reminiscent of recent artificial intelligence romantic/sexual near-future films such as “Her” and “Ex Machina,” Dickinson’s film is set around the goings-on at a high-tech company that’s about to launch a product called Augmenta; think a much faster, better, astonishingly effective version of Google Glass. The technology is so amazing, simulated sex with another human being — and you can make your partner look just like someone you know — is as intense as actual sex with another human being. Maybe more so.

Dickinson plays David, an ad exec in charge of the launching of Augmenta. The multimedia artist Reggie Watts, playing a hilarious, exaggerated version of himself, is brought in to help launch the product. All systems are go!

Problem is, David’s a fragmented, emotionally detached, self-obsessed hipster who’s having an increasingly difficult time staying connected with reality. (In other words, he’s a classic and, yes, somewhat stereotypical, high-functioning Millennial.)

Mired in a contentious relationship with a yoga instructor (Nora Zehetner), David becomes obsessed with Sophie (Alexia Rasmussen), the girlfriend of his photographer buddy (Dan Gill), but we shouldn’t feel too sorry for his buddy, because THAT guy is cheating on Sophie.

David creates an avatar of Sophie that looks, sounds and even feels like her. He falls in love with Sophie — or at least the virtual reality version of Sophie.

Complications ensue. Big-picture questions are posed about our increasing dependence on technology. And as we’re enjoying the beautiful cinematography and the fine acting and the dark humor, Benjamin Dickinson is delivering a signature work announcing his arrival as a filmmaker to watch for years to come.


Magnolia Pictures presents a film directed by Benjamin Dickinson and written by Dickinson and Micah Bloomberg. Running time: 97 minutes. Rated R (for strong sexual content, nudity, language and drug use). Opens Friday at the Music Box Theatre.