Director James Ponsoldt
Screenplay Ponsoldt, Dave Eggers based on the book by Eggers
Starring Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, John Boyega, Karen Gillan, Ellar Coltrane, Patton Oswalt, Glenne Headly, Bill Paxton, Nate Coddry
“I am a believer in the perfectibility of human beings.”
Mae Holland (Watson) is a young “Circler” at the Facebook/Google-type company, The Circle. She is overwhelmed early on, and not all that convinced things are on the up and up. She meets Ty Lafitte (Boyega), a skeptic who also happens to be the creator of one of their biggest products. She receives mixed signals that leave her unsure of the direction she is heading. A near death incident puts her in contact with its CEO Eamon Bailey (Watson). This leads her into the role of guinea pig for their biggest product yet, SeeChange. Thus begins Mae’s journey into the spider’s web.
She is vulnerable. She has ideas. She seemingly has the ear of the company heads and is literally being watched by the world. She gets used to the benefits, but doesn’t see the other side. Her friends in the company (Gillian) and out (Coltrane) express their doubts. She hears them, but not as much as she hears her own pulse pounding with the possibilities.
The film pushes forward awkwardly. Its premise covering the possibility of losing our freedoms is assigned to corporations pushing their products on to governments. The absurdity goes over the rails, literally at the insistence of Bailey and his lead creep, Stenton (Oswalt).
What possible strengths the story could have are undermined in its own ridiculousness. Two great performances by the late Paxton and Headley seem out of place when contrasted by the rest of the cast.
Hanks, who is a producer of the film, actually gives a performance that alternates between soft megalomania and clueless to the most basic plot turns.
The end result is less transparent and more just obvious.
(** out of *****)