What happens when Google blends together with all the forms of social media and becomes Big Brother? That is one of the questions poised by the new film starring Emma Watson.
Unfortunately, The Circle never really pays off the high concept questions that it introduces in any sufficiently supportive manner.
Thanks to a friend, Mae (Emma Watson) gets an interview with the big company, The Circle, where the future has become the now. She gets the position, which is just a phone answerer, but she realizes soon that this company does business in a different manner. Employees are encouraged to put every aspect of their lives onto the social media, employees are encourages to participate in the social activities on the Circle campus and to engage with a smile with everyone.
There are also meetings where one of the founding fathers of the Circle, Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks) does presentations much like Steve Jobs at Apple, where he presents ideas for the group to be pondering as well as presenting the next step in technology to help the world. These meetings are also attended by founding father #2 Stenton (Patton Oswalt).
Mae quickly rises up the ranks and suddenly becomes one of the stars of the Circle when she agrees to wear a camera 24/7 and go translucent. Everyone, everywhere with access to every bit of your life. As the technology continues to push the limits, it starts to poise some questions about exactly how sincere the Circle is.
There are a lot of problems with this movie. One, the story has plenty of problems. The action does not really pick up until late in the third act, which makes the first two acts slow and quite dull at times. The film does a poor job of creating any sort of antagonist within the Circle. Sure the film does imply that there are shady dealing going on, but it hardly comes to the forefront of the story. Even at the end, there is little presented to us that indicates that Bailey and Stenton weren’t exactly who they were. They always seem like good guys who just may be misguided with the use of the technology.
Two, some of the acting was truly bad. That is a tough comment to make with this film’s superior cast, but there were several moments that I thought to myself, “Boy that is really wooden acting.”
Three, the film really does not make good use of the great cast. Tom Hanks, who you are led to believe by the trailer is a huge piece of this film, is really only in the film for a handful of scenes, most of which take place on the stage in front of the audience. John Boyega is in this film as the third “founding father” but he appears even less than Hanks and feels completely wasted. Karen Gillian, who plays Mae’s friend Annie- who gets her involved, even wasted as well, and provides some of the worst scenes in the film. She goes through some kind of depression and seems to lose her way, but I am not sure why that happened or how it started. It seemed as if she started going downhill as soon as Mae started having success. That was all I got from it. That is three pretty big stars to waste.
Fourth, the concept of the movie, though pretty interesting and topical, is never truly paid off. Emma Watson’s character changes paths several times throughout the film without reason or motivation. Her interactions with John Boyega was completely ignored. She switches teams on a dime. There is little sense made and that certainly hurts when you are meant to connect with her.
I did like Mae’s parents. I did not even realize until after the film that Mae’s father was being played by the late, great Bill Paxton. Mae’s parents (the mom played by Glenne Headly) were actually the more developed of the characters. Paxton played Mae’s father who had MS and was struggling to keep getting through. Had the rest of the characters had as much care in writing as these two, The Circle would have been a much improved film.
The trailers made The Circle look like a cult, but that was not really the case. It was more about social media and its inclusion in our lives and how technology can come at a cost of our privacy. I feel like there were so many better ways to have approached this film that it wasted a real opportunity to have a great message with a great cast. Emma Watson is fine, but not remarkable. Tom Hanks is not the villain he looks like in the trailers.
The Circle does not live up to its potential.