Adaptation of the 2013 novel of the same name written by Dave Eggers, The Circle, directed and co-scripted by James Ponsoldt, presents itself as a cautionary tale about the threat that new social media technologies represent for our privacy.
The movie, which recently premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, introduces Emma Watson as Mae Holland, a young woman whose dream of a better life will come true when she gets an entry-level job at a powerful Internet corporations called The Circle. Little by little, Mae gets seduced by the idea of being “connected” with the rest of the world 24/7, as she volunteers to experiment with a brand new gadget that will share every moment of her life online. Little does she know, her privacy and her entourage’s safety will be at stake.
There’s no denying that there is no better time for this Black Mirror-like theme to be explored than today, in an age of high surveillance and security, where most of your private life has become not so private anymore, and at a time when Facebook’s live feed feature is under fire for allowing ill-intentioned people broadcast horrifying events such as murders and rapes. But does The Circle really measure up to the wake-up call we all needed? Here’s the big picture…
Ultra-relevant film but not that realistic
Making a good movie about people whose job is to type on their keyboards most of the day is a challenge. Something that director James Ponsoldt (The Spectacular Now) knows well and manages to succeed in with creative visual technics that merge the worlds of what’s real and what’s virtual (but is there really a difference anymore?).
Unfortunately, the special effects subtlety doesn’t make up for the lack of realism of the movie. Even though it tries to expose what it’s like to have every aspect of your life uncovered for everyone to judge on the Internet, “most negativity and cruelty seems to have been edited out of” the many comments shown onscreen, “and that certainly doesn’t represent what online life is like in full.” For a movie that we expect to hit us on the head, The Circle seems to shy away a bit to much from the web’s ugly sides.
The bubble of corporate tech campuses, however, is very well captured.
Over the top
According to most reviews, The Circle is “an over-the-top and implausible story” that at times feels “overdone and obvious.” In what seems to be the consequence of heavy-handed writing with “various underdeveloped dynamics,” it sadly offers “a crushing lack of suspense” along with some scenes that “dive off the deep end into exaggeration.”
In the end, it looks like The Circle only turns out to be a very ambitious piece of work that is partially effective but often overdone by fear of failing to convey a very real danger menacing modern society.
Watson and Hanks are great actors with less great roles
British actress Emma Watson convinces as sweet-faced Mae, but the visible weakness of her character seems to have less to do with her acting and more with its slight lack in real depth. In fact, her “one-note protagonist” oftentimes feels pretty dim in some situations in regards to her actions and choices. Which likely makes it hard for Watson to “make the various changes that happen to Mae convincing.”
As for Tom Hanks, it is enjoyable to see him joining the dark side, but unfortunately, his role tends to be too “superfluous.”
Eventually, however, Watson’s and Hanks’ “strong acting performances” are what makes the movie “engrossing.”
Best quotes from the reviews:
“The Circle” takes a valid concern about lack of privacy in the Internet age and turns it into a hyperbolic and finally laughable melodrama.” – Dan Callahan, The Wrap
“One of the things The Circle gets right on multiple occasions is that, once one has bought into a technology like this, the problems it creates are invitations not to abandon it but to seek further technological solutions.” – John DeFore, The Hollywood Reporter
“The Circle is all foreplay, playfully prodding without providing a satisfying payoff.” – Benjamin Lee, The Guardian