The Circle Review
I have no problem admitting that I am fairly active on social media. I mostly use it for blogging purposes, but I do use several social media outlets to keep up with friends. I like experimenting with different things on my social media uses. But I also like to keep my accounts private, I don't just let anybody into my world, because I don't trust people I have never met before. I know many people who don't like to simply put their entire selves out in the open. As social media evolves though, that gets harder and harder to do, no matter how private you make your accounts.
"The Circle" is a cautionary tale about a girl named Mae (Emma Watson) who gets in over her head at The Circle, a social media company that that is making breakthroughs in technology and the internet. What seems like a normal company at first glance by Mae isn't all that normal. Maybe company leaders Eamon (Tom Hanks) and Tom (Patton Oswald) are up to something worse. I was expecting this to be something very special, I mean we have "Brave New World-esque" science fiction with social media. A film starring Tom Hanks and Patton Oswald as evil Mark Zuckerberg dopplegangers. It co-stars John Boyega, Bill Paxton and Karen Gillen. Its got all the ingredients for a great movie.
So why am I not falling backwards for this?
Because director James Ponsoldt made every bad decision he could possibly make. He didn't read the screenplay clearly enough, he didn't make sure his all-star cast was at the top of their game, he didn't make sure that this movie made sense. "The Circle" isn't really a cautionary tale about the abuses of social media and how people can exploit it for power. It turns out that "The Circle" really isn't about a goddamn thing. Its weaker "Eagle Eye," a diet-1984 that will leave a bad taste in your mouth by the time its over.
The biggest problem is that this great cast assembled for this film feel like a bunch of amateurs. Tom Hanks is fine, but he didn't blow me away like he usually does. This is a rare occurrence when he actually plays a villain, and its not engaging at all. Even though he has Patton Oswald to bounce off of, who tried really hard to make this count, but simply can't. Emma Watson is another disappoint. But I don't know if I hate her performance or if I hate the character she's playing. Mae is a selfish twat, who knows early on how damaging the secrets of The Circle are, but she doesn't care because working for them is so great! Her character will radically shift in personality for convenience of plot. One moment she's perfectly happy working for this company, then suddenly she's the hero of the movie when it benefits her the most. She only ever reacts to events in the movie when its good for her. Not really the type of character you put as the hero of the movie. Everybody else is fine, but perhaps they knew they were in a bad movie, but couldn't say so.
The film itself is like a piece of Teflon foam, waiting to swallow you up depending on where you step. As the company begins to place cameras everywhere around the world, how can Watson's character learn all the secrets of The Circle from a surprise character without getting caught? How come The Circle can become so broad and gain so much power with so little explanation? There is never any time to really give a good explanation on anything, the movie is in such a hurry to keep things moving with characters we never care about that storylines fly right by us. Why should we care about the story at hand, if we can't even care about the characters?
It kills me that this movie blew its chance at being something special. I am not against movies ever being silly, especially science fiction films, sometimes they are broad in fiction due to the metaphors they are playing with. There is no problem with that, as long as it serves the story. There is no story to serve in "The Circle." The ending is meant to be provocative, I can just tell by looking at it. But the story is so convoluted to being nothing at all that its hard to tell what the ending means, or if its even a good or bad ending. I can't tell with the evidence given what the ending is supposed to mean or what Emma actions mean. Not that this revelation is really that surprising. There are so many "big moments" in this movie that fall flat because the film refuses to engage with the audience, refuses to create development with its characters, refuses to tell a decent story. Honestly, its kind of hard to care.
I can't believe all the good talent involved in this couldn't smell the shit coming off this screenplay. But, I suppose even the A-listers need money for groceries.
FINAL GRADE: D-