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Writer/director/star ** and avatar girlfriend

Writer/director/star Benjamin Dickinson and avatar girlfriend (Alexia Rasmussen)

“CREATIVE CONTROL” My rating: B-

97 minutes | MPAA rating: R

“Creative Control” is set in a near future of rapid technical advances. Human nature, though, hasn’t had a chance to catch up.

The impressive if sometimes muddled effort from director  Benjamin Dickinson (who also co-wrote and stars) centers on David, the creative director at a New York advertising firm.

The film’s world looks a lot like ours, except for some telling details.  The Soho district streets appear pretty much the same, as do most fashions. But inside David’s workplace, computers are now nothing more than translucent slabs of plastic that sit on desks and are operated by flicking one’s fingers across the screen.

As the film begins David — a tense guy in a high stress job — is drifting away from his yoga-instructor girlfriend Juliette (Nora Zehetner). She’s mellow and he’s…well he’s kind of Woody Allen-ish neurotic.

He finds escape in the new product his firm has been hired to debut. It’s a computer in the form of a pair of eyeglasses.  Called Augmenta, this system pretty much makes virtual reality a reality.  Whatever your mind can think, Augmenta can make it happen right before your eyes.

For David it’s an opportunity to fantasize about Sophie (Alexia Rasmussen), the clothing designer squeeze of his best friend Wim (Dan Gill), a womanizing high fashion photographer.

With Augmenta David can not only conjure up a Sophie avatar in his head, he can augment her body to make her his dream girl right down to the last freckle.

Is this cheating? Adultery? Rampant chauvinism?

More to the point, what happens now that David cannot separate the real Sophie from the manufactured one he sees through the Augmenta specs?

“Creative Control” bites off a bit more than it can comfortably masticate. It simultaneously satirizes the ad game, our increasing dependence on electronic stimulation, and the sort of relationship foibles that have long been a staple of Manhattan-based romantic comedy. Moreover, there’s not much warmth here — David is a rather pathetic fellow whom we view strictly from the outside. (It might have gone smoother if Dickinson had chosen a more charismatic actor to carry the show.)

But the film is ruthlessly sardonic. And it’s been filmed in glorious widescreen black and white (the cinematographer is Adam Newport-Berra) with only a hint of color in some of David’s wilder imaginings.

| Robert W. Butler

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