Rated: PG-13 for a sexual situation, brief strong language and some thematic elements including drug use. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: April 28, 2017 Released by: STX Entertainment
A slickly polished production of a dystopian techno-thriller won't do much for discerning audiences in spite of similarities to a British anthology series picked up by Netflix that has more nuance and humanity throughout its run.
James Ponsoldt (Smashed, The Spectacular Now) directs and co-writes The Circle (from a Dave Eggers' cautionary novel; the adroit author is the partnering scenarist here) not with the deft prescience felt in the progenitor.
A young wallflower of a woman, Emma Watson's Mae Holland, turns out to be the ideal candidate for the eponymous conglomerate (who can be very beneficial from its HMOs) not without its malfeasance after moving on from a dreary call-center position. An accident turns out to have implications for her in the firm's recent upswing that has an Apple/Google hold on a Facebook/Snapchat ambitious innovation.
Tom Hanks's casual-looking salt-and-peppery hirsute Eamon is the company co-founder who sees a lot of promise for our heroine who turns into its mascot, often seen making posts and being friended or followed. Some may get a kick out of what is seen on the 'followers' pages, as it might be more enlightening than what Ponsoldt is dramatically selling to millennial folk like those (living on corporate grounds) trying to have Mae post a nocturnal kayak excursion.
A darkened room with lit cellphones appears to add to the timeliness of Eggers presumably elucidating a cinematic conversation from the consequences of private disclosure akin to themes promulgated by writers like Orwell and Huxley. In this case, not much interest or suspense is generated in spite of the talents in front of and behind the camera.
You would think there would be a better dynamic between Watson (of the recent updating of Beauty and the Beast, a box-office bonanza) and Hanks (the youngest actor to win the AFI Lifetime Achievement honor, trying to relish being cast against type). But, they seem more like part of the machinations of those boastful types constantly on their iPhones.
Not true flesh-and-blood characters indeed, as Mae's life out of this inner sanctum isn't that well-rounded. Ellar Coltrane (Boyhood) turns up as a boyfriend, Karen Gillan (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2) as friendly catalyst to a stepping stone, and John Boyega (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) as the informative colleague (almost mystical in his presence), Ty. Probably the one who registers the most on a human scale in an all-too-obvious The Circle is the late Bill Paxton as Mae's benevolent Multiple sclerosis-afflicted dad.