[Screen It]


(2017) (Emma Watson, Tom Hanks) (PG-13)

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Drama: A young woman rises quickly through a powerful social media company only to become concerned by their growing intrusion into everyone's lives and privacy.
Mae Holland (EMMA WATSON) is a young woman whose close friend, Annie (KAREN GILLAN), gets her a customer service job interview at The Circle, a large tech and social media company. Run by its founder, Eamon Bailey (TOM HANKS), and COO Tom Stenton (PATTON OSWALT), the company is heavily into making everyone's lives as open and accessible as possible to everyone around the world, and their latest product, a miniature and wireless camera, is a big step in that direction for them. While a bit overwhelmed by all of the social media requirements -- including that involving one's downtime -- Mae really likes her job, something not lost on her parents, Vinnie (BILL PAXTON) and Bonnie (GLENNE HEADLY), who must contend with him having multiple sclerosis.

But not everyone's enthusiastic about the company's direction, be that Mae's childhood friend, Mercer (ELLAR COLTRANE), who makes a living creating unique chandeliers, or even one of the company's original founders, Ty Lafitte (JOHN BOYEGA), who befriends Mae but informs her he's concerned by the company's continued and ever-increasing intrusion into everyone's lives and privacy.

Even so, and after the social media platform and technology ends up saving her life, Mae finds herself a rising star in the company, as well as on the Internet due to being the first person to have every aspect of their life broadcast to everyone around the world. When she sees how far that technology can go, however, she begins to have a change of heart.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
Our reviewing policy for films that aren't shown in advance to critics (or are done so late the night before they open) is that we'll only provide a paragraph or two about the film's artistic merits or, more accurately, lack thereof. After all, life is too short to spend any more effort than that on a movie that even the releasing studio knows isn't any good (which is why they hid it from reviewers before its release).

Years ago I met a man who runs a data mining company and he told that with just a person's email address, he could pretty much tell me everything anyone would want to know about them. Obviously, that was monetized by potentially selling such information to advertisers, but it was a wake-up call about how little privacy we have anymore.

It's only gotten worse since then, with more companies collecting more data on everyone, and it's no longer far-fetched to believe that we'll soon be living a "Minority Report" sort of life where ads follow you everywhere (including on your cereal box as occurred in that movie). "The Circle" -- based on Dave Eggers' 2013 novel of the same name, intends to turn that into a thought-provoking dramatic thriller of sorts. But just like its namesake geometric shape, the film ultimately goes nowhere.

Despite the timeliness of the subject matter and the fact that many people are posting all sorts of things about their lives online, this was done in a much better, more imaginative and decidedly far more engaging fashion in "The Truman Show" (even with that coming out before online social media really existed).

The flick -- directed by James Ponsoldt from a screenplay adaptation he penned with Eggers -- isn't awful, it's just boring, slow to develop and -- shockingly -- doesn't even address the issue of such information being hacked and used for any sort of nefarious reasons that would have been far more interesting than what transpires here. But its biggest cardinal sin is likely its waste of a good cast that, beyond Emma Watson and Tom Hanks, also includes the late Bill Paxton, funnyman Patton Oswalt -- in a straight drama role -- and "Star Wars: The Force Awakens'" John Boyega.

Instead of going 'round and 'round with dismissing this offering, I simply suggest you go back and watch "The Truman Show," director Peter Weir's far better, satirical examination of the perils of a life fully exposed. "The Circle" rates as a 4 out of 10.

Reviewed April 27, 2017 / Posted April 28, 2017

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