This may be the first ever movie where literally nothing happens.
“The Circle” stars Emma Watson as a young girl who joins a tech company that wants to put cameras everywhere in the world. I really wish I could give more of a plot summary than that, but as I said above: this movie isn’t really about anything. Tom Hanks and Patton Oswald star as the founders of the company and John Boyega is also in it for a minute. James Ponsoldt directs.
Once or twice a year, I randomly pick a movie that I am going to go in with no preconceived notions about; this means I don’t watch any trailers or read any reviews. I chose “The Circle” as one of these films and walked in not knowing much beyond “Emma Watson joins a tech company run by Tom Hanks.” Upon actually seeing “The Circle” I can’t tell you much more about it than it is Emma Watson joining a tech company run by Tom Hanks.
First things first, the script is awful. Based on a book by Dave Eggers, Eggers co-wrote the screenplay with director Ponsoldt. So you have the man who wrote the original work and the person in charge of translating it to the screen, yet somehow their screenplay lacks any vision or coherency. The basic rule of screenwriting is “show don’t tell,” meaning you should have actions explain motivations and feelings, not dialogue. The film abandons this basic principle and decides to have each “character” (I’m using that term liberally because no one is fleshed out) tell the audience what is happening and how they feel; every person a walking exposition machine and none act like real humans.
Emma Watson has never been accused of being a great actress but here she is extra stale and deprived of charismatic as our lead. She is unchanged from the opening shot of the film to the last scene, and it can be argued she actually isn’t even a protagonist worth rooting for. Tom Hanks is implied to be the film’s antagonist, but it is really just because he’s the CEO of a big social media conglomerate and that’s the stigma we hold upon people in those positions. He never does anything evil or make us hope Watson takes him down, and you can tell Hanks is trying his hardest to give his character *something* to do/be.
Ellar Coltrane, best known for starring over a decade in “Boyhood,” is Watson’s childhood friend (I think? It’s truly never fleshed out) and he is truly awful. His dialogue isn’t helping, but his delivery is atrocious and awkward, and had the audience in unintended laughter. The film also features Bill Paxton in his final career role (the only thing this film will ever be remembered for) and he is sympathetic as Watson’s sick father in his few scenes.
Even if we had interesting characters, they wouldn’t have anything to do. There isn’t anything resembling conflict or tension through the entire film, with only one scene in the entire film actually resulting in something resembling consequence, and even that feels unearned because of how ludicrous and unrealistic it is.
Even the editing is subpar. The film as a whole drags, with the runtime clocking in at less than two hours but you feel every second of it. Some of the way scenes are spliced together are also awkward, especially one where Watson and a friend are having a conversation in two different bathroom stalls but the camera is framed at the same angle for both women so every time is cuts back and forth it is jarring.
The one thing the film has going for it is its concept. Although the “Big Brother is always watching you” idea is about five years too late to be sci-fi and is now pretty much an accepted reality, the film does make a few good points about how willing people are to sacrifice privacy for convenience, and that maybe the tech companies don’t have our best interest at heart. But the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
“The Circle” is more boring than it is bad. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a good movie, but at least it seems the people involved were trying; this isn’t an Adam Sandler joint. Unfortunately, their efforts are nowhere near enough to make this watchable. Not as enjoyable as a Periscope feed and featuring less drama than your aunt getting in a political argument on Facebook, “The Circle” is a square.
Critics Rating: 2/10