Movie Review: The Circle (2017)

Posted: September 10, 2017 in Drama
Tags: , ,

the circle

Mae (Emma Watson) works as a customer service representative in a small company, when her friend Annie, (Karen Gillian) gets her an interview at the Circle, one of the most famous tech companies in San Francisco.  She aces the interview and starts work in the customer experience area.  Mae goes home her first weekend to take care of her father, Vinnie (Bill Paxon) who has MS.  That absence on the weekend earns Mae a visit from Renata (Ellen Wong) and Matt (Amir Talal) asking Mae to fill out her personal social media page, and attend more company parties.  Eager to move up in the company, Mae does just that, at one of these parties she meets Ty (John Boyega) inventor of True You, the social media arm of The Circle.  They talk for a while and then she goes back to her residence at the campus of the Circle.   Mae is now fully devoted to her life at The Circle, she video conferences her parents, and hardly sees her childhood friend, Mercer (Eller Coltraine) who now works as a carpenter, and makes handmade chandeliers.   In an attempt to help Mercer, Mae shares a picture of a chandelier that Mercer made for Mae’s mom, but the picture causes a social media backlash, and people label Mercer a deer killer, and he disappears.

While attending another party, Ty takes Mae to a hidden part of The Circle, where the executives keep files of everyone in The Circle and friends and enemies alike. Mae is clearly disturbed by the secrets that the executives are keeping, and by Mercer’s disappearance, she goes kayaking to clear her mind, but she experiences some rough waters and almost drowns  if not for the underwater cameras in San Francisco Bay.  After this traumatic event, and meeting the CEO of The Circle, Mr. Bailey (Tom Hanks) Mae decides to go transparent, having every aspect of her life documented on video.  Not only that but Mae also starts work on the Soul Search software program, which can find fugitives from justice or lost loves in record time.  The Soul Search finds a criminal in under 20 minutes.  The next search is for Mae’s friend, Mercer.  How does that search end up?

Imagine if Google, Amazon, Apple and Go Pro all merged and imagine what the resulting technology conglomerate would look like?  That’s what this movie imagines.  The Circle is very good at identifying  the dark side of social media, the complete lack of privacy, the cyberbullying, the group think, even the vigilantism possible with social media.  Further it explores work life balance issues at a tech company, and how much of an employee’s life belongs to the company.  The Circle as a company feels almost cult-like.  But the story becomes derivative of the Truman show, when Mae straps on a camera, and it makes Mae much dumber than she should be,  and then turns her into a victim of her own success.  The growth of the Circle’s social media software seems a little too quick to be realistic, but there are still many thought provoking ideas in this movie.  The critics panned it, but for the most part, despite some flaws, this is an interesting story.

The acting is very good.  Emma Watson is very convincing as a naïve girl, who joins a tech company, and quickly learns how much of her time belongs to the company.  The writers make her a little dumber than she should be but Watson fights through bad writing and makes the character strong, yet vulnerable.Tom Hanks does a great job playing a lovable Bill Gates type, people forget how ruthless Microsoft was in creating a monopoly for its products, but that’s how Hanks plays Bailey, all sunshine and rainbows on the outside, and ruthlessly controlling on the inside. The writers definitely did John Boyega a disservice by making his role so small, and making his character a shadowy person.  He should have been much better defined and had a bigger role. Patton Oswalt was also very good as the sinister scheming co-founder of the circle.  Oswalt is a comedian, who shows surprising range in this role.

There is nothing visually noteworthy about the direction, but the pacing is good and the story moves briskly, to a somewhat satisfactory conclusion.  James Ponsoldt hasn’t directed anything of note, but he wrote the screenplay and adapted it from the books of the same name.

The Circle:  Tom Hankering to control all of us.

 

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