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Reviews for April 27th, 2023

The Artifice Girl

Directed by Franklin Ritch Craig

      Special agents Deena (Sinda Nichols) and Amos (David Girard) interrogate Garreth (Franklin Ritch), a computer programmer, about the fact that he uses Cherry (Tatum Matthews), an 11-year-old girl, to lure and bait child preditors online before ratting on them to the police. Garreth claims that Cherry is actually and AI program that he designed, so Deena and Amos hire him to join their team.

      The screenplay by writer/director Franklin Ritch begins as a gripping thriller before morphing into a provocative sci-fi drama and a timely cautionary tale about the long-term consequences of using AI. Ritch separates the film into three chapters. The first takes place in the room where the special agents interrogate Garreth, so it's pretty much a lengthy expositional scene. The second chapter takes place a few years later when Garreth has already joined their team while continuing to use Cherry as bait. Cherry has become more advanced and intelligent throughout the years. The third and final chapter takes place decades later when Garreth (now played by Lance Henriksen) is an old man and Cherry has become so advanced that she exhibits signs of self-consciousness as looks back at her career. The Artifice Girl doesn't really flesh out Cherry or Garreth as characters enough for you to care about them or their bond. He's been using her for many years, so it's unclear what kind of emotional attachment, if any, he has for her. What kind of life has he lead throughout the years? Is she like his surrogate daughter? The screenplay explores many thought-provoking issues about the ethical and moral consequences of using artificial intelligence, but it's only mildly engaging as a narrative. Writer/director Franklin Ritch includes a lot of dialogue, which is fine, but there's very little wit and comic relief, so it feels somewhat dry, tedious and pedestrian. As Truffaut had wisely stated, a truly great film has the right balance of Truth and Spectacle. The Artifice Girl has plenty of Truth, but not nearly enough Spectacle because it rarely finds the Spectacle within the Truth. There are shades of Isaac Asimov throughout the film, so if you're a fan of Asimov's cerebral stories, that's a plus. Bicentennial Man, based on Asimov's novelette, is a more entertaining and cinematic sci-fi movie that explores similar themes with more emotional depth, warmth, wit and humor.

      Despite being a sci-fi movie, The Artifice Girl doesn't boast any visual style when it comes to its cinematography, lighting, set design or anything else that would make it more cinematic. Writer/director Franklin Ritch keeps the film's settings looking simple without much that stands out for the eyes or, when it comes to the music, for the ears. He relies heavily on the dialogue to carry the film's weight and trusts the audience's patience as well as their imagination albeit a little too much. Each chapter overstays its welcome by at least 10 or 15 minutes. The performances are decent, and Lance Henriksen is well-cast as the older version of Garrett while adding some gravitas to the film. At a running time of 1 hour and 33 minutes, The Artifice Girl is provocative and timely, but concurrently exhausting and monotonous.

Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by XYZ Films.
Opens in select theaters and on VOD.