The Circle

Director: James Ponsoldt

Starring: Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, Karen Gillan, Ellar Coltrane, Patton Oswalt, Bill Paxton, Glenne Headley, John Boyega

Rated: PG-13 (a sexual situation, brief strong language and some thematic elements including drug use)

A woman lands a dream job at a powerful tech company called the Circle, only to uncover a nefarious agenda that will affect the lives of her friends, family and that of humanity.

 

The Circle

By Cole Schneider

Set in a very near, lightly dystopian future, “The Circle” follows lead Mae (Emma Watson) as she rises up the ranks at the world’s largest tech and social media company, eventually living her life with complete transparency. She’s a kind of self-aware Truman. Maybe 2017 is the right time to be self-reflexive on some of the subjects “The Truman Show” (brilliantly) prophesied nearly 20 years ago.

Indeed, “The Circle” may seem to be a decent, smart alternative to the big, spectacle-driven sci-fi that summer promises, but alas it doesn’t really have anything more interesting going on than the movies we anticipate in the coming months and it sure doesn’t have any spectacle to divert us from what it lacks otherwise.

To be fair, there are interesting concepts in “The Circle” and occasional flurries of the kind of things you’d find in a good movie. Unfortunately they never sustain for longer than a scene. Anytime something interesting happens it’s immediately followed with the laziest exposition possible. Whether it’s Tom Hanks giving a Steve Jobs-esque lecture or Emma Watson delivering a monologue for her vlog-esque social media platform, we’re constantly being talked at.

The result is that the audience is bored enough to realize that the ideas being presented in the film are much less original and incisive than they seem to be. One wonders if maybe it thinks it’s a satire of millennial values. That would explain why it’s so disrespectful to that generation throughout the film, but it raises another question: Why isn’t it funnier? I could’ve settled for either a funny movie or a dramatic movie. “The Circle” is neither.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

 

The Circle

By Matt Greene

Techno-thriller The Circle would be more aptly titled Applauding for Platitudes: The Movie. Featuring numerous, embarrassing scenes of crowds laughing, clapping, oohing and ahhing at some Steve-Jobs-esque speaker presenting a rudimentary new idea as if it’s a game-changer speaks to how the film feels about itself. Unfortunately, The Circle is not nearly as clever or important as it thinks it is. More Divergent franchise than Social Network, it’s a slick, predictable sci-fi snooze.

This story about a tech-company’s (think Google, Apple) mysterious control and oversight over its consumers and employees is packed with talent. Written by acclaimed author Dave Eggers (Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius) and directed by talented indie director Ponsoldt (Spectacular Now, End of the Tour), it’s a mystery as to what really went wrong here. The tone is a mess, trying to induce both laughs and chills (I think), but never landing either.

In front of the camera is a plethora of prestige as well. However, other than Paxton, who gives a great final performance as a man with MS, there’s not much to praise. Watson is aloof, Hanks is charming but one-note, Oswalt is out of his element, and Coltrane (the kid from Boyhood) answers the question about whether he can actually act (he cannot).

There all stuck trying to make teenage-level, pop-philosophy more interesting than it is (“Guys! Did you know privacy is important? And did you ALSO know that technology is infringing on that privacy?! We must be careful!”). Maybe that’s its goal, and maybe high-schoolers will respond to it as fascinatingly complex, but its onslaught of logical fallacies and unclear messaging just make it all fascinatingly confusing.

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars

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