The Artifice Girl is one of the most tedious, monotonous movies I’ve ever seen. It tells a story that thinks it has big ideas, although the central concept of artificial intelligence becoming smarter than the humans who made it is not exactly new. Clearly a low-budget production, the film is comprised of three scenes – the first 40 minutes long, the other two 25 minutes - each set in a single room. Inside those rooms, the characters talk, talk some more, then keep right on talking. My Dinner with Andre and Richard Linklater’s Before… trilogy proved conversation can be cinematic. This picture is nowhere near their league.
Scene one finds two special agents, Deena (Sinda Nichols) and Amos (David Gerard), interrogating Gareth (writer/director Franklin Ritch), a vigilante who lures child predators into online video chats, then reports them to the police when those chats become sexual. They are concerned about his seeming use of an 11-year old girl named Cherry (Tatum Matthews) as bait. After too much back-and-forth, Gareth reveals that Cherry isn’t real, she’s an advanced AI simulation that he has programmed not only to respond, but also to learn about how predators operate. An abundance of time is devoted to him explaining in laborious detail how she works.
Scene two jumps ahead a few years, with Deena and Amos having enlisted Gareth onto the team. They debate the ethics of continuing to utilize Cherry, given that she’s got enhanced awareness of what she’s being used for. Scene three is decades down the road. Gareth is an old man (now played by Lance Henriksen), whereas Cherry is still 11 and has achieved superintelligence. They do a very long post-mortem on her career and how she perceives what she’s been programmed to do.Suffice it to say, she ain't happy.
There’s a very interesting short film buried somewhere in The Artifice Girl. Unfortunately, it’s been padded out to feature length. Ritch’s screenplay treads the same ground in all three scenes. The same points are made again and again. Once they’ve been made sufficiently, they’re made some more. In each case, we get what the movie is trying to say early on. That means we must wait as the characters endlessly rehash what we’ve already grasped. Drab visuals don’t help. Watching people sitting around for 90 minutes is dull.
One has to wonder why Franklin Ritch chose to make a film instead of writing a book. The Artifice Girl would have worked better on the page, as wordy as it is. There’s nothing to suggest the story needed to be told in a visual medium. The movie contains zero insights on the subject of child predators, either, which makes the inclusion of the subject a little queasy. I breathed a sigh of relief when the end credits began to roll.
out of four
The Artifice Girl is unrated, but contains strong language and mature subject matter related to child sexual abuse. The running time is 1 hour and 33 minutes.