Privacy is something that we all in today’s tech advanced world are worried about. Photos have been stolen/hacked from celebrities’ clouds. Emails are on servers. Cameras are so small that they can be anywhere allowing people to watch our every move. As such it seems like the subject is ripe with possibilities in regards to films. Even after seeing this rather poor attempt at investigating that subject I still think it is true.
Small town girl Mae (Emma Watson – Beauty and the Beast, My Week with Marilyn) dreams of something more than working in a temp position at the local water company. Her chance at just that comes courtesy of her friend Annie (Karen Killan – Guardians of the Galaxy, The Big Short), who works at The Circle. She gets Mae a job interview there.
Soon she is working at the most powerful social media and tech company in the world. It is an entry level position, but Mae is delighted. She is all in with the company’s lifestyle (employees live right there on “campus”), almost obligatory social events and its highly personable CEO Bailey (Tom Hanks – Saving Private Ryan, The Da Vinci Code). If she had any, all her doubts are laid to rest when The Circle offers to help with the care of her father (Bill Paxton – Titanic, Aliens), who has MS.
Even after doing something that is wrong she becomes the darling of the company when she agrees to wear one of its new low cost lightweight cameras 24/7 becoming the test subject for its complete transparency motto. Her rise in The Circle coincides with Annie’s crash. The two friends become distant.
A distance because of the technology also arises between Mae and her parents and childhood friend Mercer (Ellar Coltrane – Boyhood, Fast Food Nation). Soon, after a tragic event and some discussion with one of The Circle’s founders – Ty (John Boyega – Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Attack the Block) – Mae’s eyes begin to open as to the dangers this type of technology poses on herself and all of society.
Its heart is in the right place, but little else is in director James Ponsoldt’s (The Spectacular Now, Smashed) film. Misstep after misstep occurs. The wavering between focusing on the creepy cultlike feel to The Circle and a sincere examination of the dangers of certain technology gives the film an unfocused feel. For moments there are interesting bits of social commentary and then it quickly moves on to lighthearted stuff that seems too jarring a change of direction.
Tom Hanks does precious little in the film in his Steve Jobs-like character. He just stands around in his casual clothes being just a plain old nice guy with great ideas about making the world a better place until he is caught as being a liar by his own technology. Waste!
The treatment or lack thereof of the Bailey character is symptomatic of the entire film. Things are picked up then dropped just as quickly. No character is ever really developed. Even Mae. We are never given the opportunity to understand or empathize with why anyone acts the way they do. Again, coherency is not something that can be said about The Circle.
As for Emma Watson there is a sincerity about they way she brings the character to life that makes you root for her despite the fact that Mae is rather an enigma. A bit dopey yet really bright. Despite the lack of quality in the material she is a highly watchable and capable actress.
Then there is the hokey dialogue. How are you not supposed to laugh when lines like “Secrets are lies” and “Sharing is caring” are uttered? Loads of times during the two hours I was smiling to myself thinking that no one actually talks like that.