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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

May 5, 2017

The Circle Movie Review: Bad Follow Up Movie For Emma Watson After The Huge Success Of "Beauty And The Beast" That Made Her A Big Box Office Star

‘THE CIRCLE’ is based on a 2013 novel by Dave Eggers and it is such a bad follow up movie for Emma Watson after she just became a huge box office star in “Beauty and the Beast”. She plays Mae, a young woman bored with her dreary job in a small town. Her dad (Bill Paxton, who did this before he passed early this year) is suffering from multiple sclerosis, with her mom (Glenne Headly) as the chief caregiver. Their medical bills are piling up and Mae wants a better paying job.

She finds hope when her friend Annie (Karen Gillan, the android in “Guardians of the Galaxy”) manages to get her an interview with a big company called The Circle that is into information technology. Mae is hired as customer experience representative and quickly ingratiates herself into the good graces of the company’s top executives, Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks) and Tom Stenton (Patton Oswalt), who give her bigger responsibilities.

Soon, she meets Ty (John Boyega), a mysterious employee who turns out to play a much bigger role than what meets the eye. Ty questions the objectives of the company for total transparency that will eliminate everyone’s privacy. This is done through tiny pervasive cameras positioned everywhere that make it possible for anyone to monitor what everyone else is doing at any given time.

Mae is initially attracted to the Orwellian Big Brother idea of intrusive surveillance that will expose the shenanigans of the most crooked politicians. She allows herself to be the company’s guinea pig who is on camera 24/7 and this makes her a social media sensation. But you have to pay a price for this and she realizes this when a good friend of hers, Mercer (Ellar Coltrane of “Boyhood”), becomes a fatal victim of The Circle’s total loss of privacy. She then has to decide which side she is on.

There have been movies of this sort before, like “Antitrust”, “Above the Law”, “The Truman Show”, “The Insider”, “The Net”, “The Parallax View”, “The Skulls”, etc. And some of them are definitely better constructed than “The Circle”, which could have been more compelling viewing in the hands of a more perceptive director. But James Ponsoldt, who directed the acclaimed “The Spectacular Now”, failed to escalate the paranoia it aims to establish in a credible and exciting manner. You expect it to be wilder, more thrilling, more frightening, but boredom seeps in halfway through and the movie never recovers and just quietly ends with a very weak and undernourished conclusion. The film has an interesting concept and could have been more thought-provoking but it seems the director doesn’t know how to make it so.

Why Tom Hanks agreed to play a supporting role in this movie, after he played the lead in recent films like “Sully” and “Inferno”, is something we can’t understand. In all fairness to him, he is very good, no, excellent, as Eamon Bailey, the founder of The Circle. He is actually the villain here but he doesn’t play it that way. When he does his regular pep talks and product presentations, he gives his role the oozing charm and seeming humility that it calls for, considering that he’s leading a high-tech company that wants to pervade every nook and cranny of our lives.

Tom’s portrayal of Eamon, who he succeeds to make as someone likeable, is actually the best thing in the movie. Too bad for Emma Watson that her role is not that interesting and she gives a one-note performance, so Tom Hanks easily swallows her alive.