Thursday, March 10, 2016

Young and ambitious in Brooklyn

Creative Control paints a telling portrait of life in the high-tech fast lane.

As a young Brooklynite working at an ultra-hip advertising agency, David (Benjamin Dickinson) finally has gotten creative control over an important account. He'll lead the campaign for a product called Augmenta, glasses that allow wearers to create virtual experiences that come close to simulating the real thing.

In David's case "the real thing" happens to be having sex with a co-worker (Alexia Rasmussen). He seldom takes off the glasses he's supposed to be selling.

This set-up may prime expectations for a derivative bit of sci-fi, but a mixture of fresh insight and observation turn Creative Control -- which Dickinson also directed -- into an up-to-the-minute comedy of manners.

Perhaps to facilitate his illusory sexual adventures, David makes sure not get along with his live-in girlfriend (Nora Zehtener). Zehtener's Juliette teaches yoga. She seems a "natural" alternative to David's high-tech mania.

By the end, though, the movie skewers Juliette, as well, turning her into an advocate for some sort of loopy, peak-consciousness experience.

Set in the near future, Creative Control imagines a world in which phones are made of translucent material. Today's familiar devices (cell phones, lap tops, etc.) have progressed.

Writing a text message, for example, is like writing on air, and at meetings, it's not unusual for someone to refer to a holographic chart that materializes over a conference table.

What saves Creative Control from being another screed about the ways in which technology separates us from the tumult of flesh-and-blood experience is Dickinson's spot-on portrayal of what it means to be young, upwardly mobile and wildly immature in Brooklyn.

Arrogant on the outside, David is a seething mass of insecurities on the inside. After a commanding performance at a client meeting, for example, he heads to the men's room to throw up. He's not nearly as sure of himself as he initially seems.

David decides to build the Augmenta campaign around the work of Reggie Watts, an experimental musician and comic (played by himself) who dispenses mind-altering drugs to the other characters. Watts devises what he sees as a deeply meaningful ad, but it probably couldn't sell water in a desert.

Dan Gill plays Wim, David's best friend, a fashion photographer who's in the midst of an affair with Rasmussen's Sophie -- and lots of other women, as well.

David increasingly has difficulty separating illusion from reality, but the real enjoyment in Dickinson's movie stems less from the disconnect between the real and the synthetic than from gorgeous black-and-white cinematography and from the way Dickinson captures David's urban milieu.

The upscale environment of David's office contrasts with the low-tech streets of Brooklyn. Despite the dizzying achievements of a youth-oriented business culture, Brooklyn remains recognizably Brooklyn.

Funny and fresh, Dickinson's movie manages -- and not incidentally -- to rake Brooklyn's hip young residents over some well-earned satirical coals. It's one of the season's bigger surprises.

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