By Laurie Coker
When a film doesn’t screen for press, red flags fly. The Circle starring Tom Hanks and Emma Watson did not, at least not in Austin. It is not difficult to understand why. Riding on the heels of Beauty and the Beast, Watson even coupled with Hanks is given little with which to work by director and co-writer James Ponsoldt. Touted at a thriller, The Circle lacks on the thrills and even more so on a point. A heavy-handed approach to well-worn themes, the film falters more than it succeeds stumbling in its own confusion.
Based on a book by Dave Eggers, The Circle creators seek to send timely messages regarding privacy, social media, and technology tribulations, but it fails on all levels, lost in its own mess – never quite making any one point clear and missing every opportunity for good satire. Watson plays, Mae, a woman trying to succeed in a male-dominated profession and in a world where everything she does is monitored. Watson, not yet completely comfortable in her adult skin, does her best to carry her character and the film, and she manages a decent enough job, with the modicum and the mess she is given. Hanks cannot seem to ground his character, a CEO – friendly enough – with darker underpinnings, but his character lacks development and again, a clear point for being, other than a lamely imagined villain.
Another pointless character is played by John Boyega as the young mind that supposedly came up with the idea for the Google/Facebook-like platform for which Mae works. Boyega might have been good in this had his character meant anything to the story at all. We will never know. Like Hanks, his character’s purpose is lost in the confusion. Since there are some obvious parallels to novels like Brave New World and 1984, the whole overdone dystopian stance is sickly in its delivery.
Pop-up chat bubbles narrating Mae’s life are clever, but not clever enough to hold interest and while the there are some visually interesting elements in the film, boredom ensues in the untidiness and pointlessness of the plot. In the case of The Circle, I wished I had gone with my gut – no pre-screening, no good. I am placing a D in my grade book, for The Circle, wondering still, if it even warrants that high. Watson’s expression in the photo included here speaks loudly.