If I was going to give a subtitle to this review it might be The Circle: Buzz Words without a Buzzy Story. On the surface the The Circle looks like an intriguing thriller about social media and there are moments of that but they are buried inside a very dopey script, poor character development and tons of exposition.
Based on the novel by Dave Eggers, director James Ponsoldt takes a dopey book and turns it into an even dopier movie. Some elements in the novel like the suicide of a character have a lot of emotion and depth to them. In the movie that suicide is made into an accident and its impact is minimal. It’s just everything is neutered emotionally but then explained as if we were toddlers in the audience that it becomes hard to watch.
I felt like saying “movie we all get it! Social media can be invasive and take away from actual relationships”. The odd thing is within The Circle they never really address the true darkness of things like cyberbullying or trolling. It’s all on a level of ‘isn’t that uncomfortable this information or moment got shared”.
Emma Watson stars as Mae who gets a job at a facebook-like company called The Circle. It’s really like Google and Facebook combined. She is initially skeptical but then is won over…but then she’s skeptical again and won over again. There is no sense of here’s where this character starts and here’s what she learns in the end. Watson is fine in the role but it’s for a hopeless endeavor of a bland character. There’s one point where she commits a crime and that came out of nowhere. Why would she want to do that in the middle of the night? I have no idea.
Tom Hanks plays Eamon the head of The Circle and I guess he is supposed to be scary? It is certainly portrayed that way in the marketing with the label “the only thing he can’t control is her”. Far from it, he controls her very well, literally manipulating every aspect of her life for most of the movie. He’s not in the movie that much and mostly gives presentations to large groups, which makes for weak character development.
The biggest problem with Eamon and The Circle is we don’t understand the motivation. Is it to make money? Because clearly most of the stuff going on in The Circle doesn’t make them money. For example, they have a promotion to get everyone in The Circle to vote. Why does Eamon want this? For political control? If that is the case it is not clear what he wants to do with that power when he gets it. Does he want to start a cult? This could be but aside from protecting people there doesn’t seem to be an underlying philosophy usually associated with cults.
John Boyega’s character is also a huge miss. Without spoilers, let’s just say there is no way The Circle would keep him around. He’s basically there to occasionally pipe in and give Mae exposition.
The rest of the actors like the late Bill Paxton are fine but in such a lame story it is such a shame. Even the editing and directing felt cheap and rushed.
There are a few good moments and thought provoking ideas but for the most part The Circle was a bad movie. Poor characters, writing and tone.
Oh well! Can’t win them all.
Overall Grade- D-