While ‘The Circle’ goes round and round, ultimately it gets nowhere

Tom Hanks, Emma Watson and Patton Oswalt in ‘The Circle

“Relying on the government to protect your privacy is like asking a peeping tom to install your window blinds” – John Perry Barlow

Director James Ponsoldt (Smashed and The Spectacular Now) co-wrote the adaptation of the novel by Dave Eggers with the book’s author.  He managed to get Tom Hanks (A Bridge of Spies), Emma Watson (Perks of Being a Wallflower) and John Boyega among others to be part of the cast.  It also appears to be the final film that the late Bill Paxton was a part of (TailSlate Remembers Bill Paxton).  A talented cast, a director with a strong track record and a compelling novel; and yet we wind up with a lousy movie.

“Mae Holland” (Watson) is a customer service rep who is very frustrated with her situation.  Her limited income forces her to live at home with her parents “Vinnie” (Paxton) and “Bonnie” (Glenne Headley – Don Jon).  Vinnie is very ill and while there is an experimental treatment that might help him, his insurance won’t cover it.

Mae has a friend who works at The Circle, a social networking company based not far from Mae’s home.  “Annie” (Karen Gillan – The Big Short, but best known for her turn as “Amy Pond” in ‘Doctor Who’) gets Mae the interview and soon Mae is working at her dream job.

The Circle’s co-founders “Eamon Bailey” (Hanks), who runs the company and “Tom Stenton” (Patton Oswalt – Seeking a Friend for the End of the World) who is the Chief Operating Officer are an interesting pair.  Bailey is the public face of The Circle, while Stenton is the behind the scenes guy.  Bailey gives weekly inspiration talks to the employees and Mae is very inspired.  She will do almost anything to achieve a 100% satisfaction rating from the people she has provided customer support to.

Soon after she begins her work at The Circle, she is approached by two other employees whose job seems to be to help her adjust to her new environment.  In fact, their mission is a bit more sinister, to inculcate her in fulfilling the unwritten philosophy of the firm; to fully expose her life on The Circle.  When she hears one of them say that she is “very mysterious” and needs to open up, most people might react by being taken aback.  Instead she takes steps to open up.  Those don’t mesh with well with the feelings of her ex-boyfriend, “Mercer” (Ellar Coltrane – Fast Food Nation)

By the time The Circle announces its new SeeChange technology, a camera that is roughly the size of a marble and totally portable, Mae is now living at The Circle.  Not only that but she and her family have been fitted with monitoring devices to track their locations, health and more  In addition by being able to add her parents to her health plan, Mae has obtained the experimental treatment her father needed.

Emma Watson in ‘The Circle’

Mae volunteers to live a totally transparent life which makes her a rising star at The Circle.  This causes more than a few problems.  While Mercer wanted to live “off the grid” Mae inadvertently makes him a target for some who misconstrue what he does.  This leads down a very dark path.

If anyone mentioned the names Aldous Huxley or George Orwell during this film, I missed it.  But the film beats you over the head with the world they imagined throughout.  Trying to convey a message is one thing, assaulting you with it incessantly quite another.


If you’ve read the novel, you will find a very different resolution on the screen from the one you experienced on the page.  The material makes the work of the cast more difficult and ultimately impossible to rise above.

[imdb id = tt4287320]

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