Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Rounding out my thoughts about The Circle

 Having a bit of birthday money burning a hole in my pocket, I went out to the movies last weekend and checked out The Circle, which stars Emma Watson as Mae Holland, a young woman eager to start a new job at a big league tech company.

Thanks to an assist from her friend Annie(Karen Gillan), Mae scores an interview and lands a customer service spot in The Circle's vast headquarters, a step up from her rather similar job at a humdrum collection agency.

This new position, however, offers her a variety of perks, from health care that can add her parents struggling with medical costs on to better salary and onsite entertainment such as concerts on the weekends. The Circle appears to be a dream come true but is it really?:

For one thing, more and more peer pressure is put on Mae to stay involved with The Circle,even during her off-hours, and Annie grows increasingly frazzled as her work load gets bigger just about every moment.

A strong note of caution regarding the company's motives comes from a new acquaintance,Ty Lafitte(John Boyega), who was once part of the inner circle, so to speak, and nowadays, is sort of a ghost as he keeps a wary eye on the business he helped to create. Showing Mae a few of the places where The Circle stows it's massive data mining, Ty asks her to not get caught up in the company hype:

Yet Mae does just that, particularly after being recruited by the charming and charismatic head of the company, Eamon Bailey(Tom Hanks) into becoming "transparent", meaning that she live her life with a body cam that uploads instantly online for millions of viewers.

Mae even has her parents involved, which leads to a rather embarrassing incident and inadvertently causes an old friend(Ellar Coltane) to be shamed and harassed on and off line. Her willingness to accept the corporate double speak, with such slogans as "Secrets are Lies" and "Knowing is Good but Knowing Everything is Better", gets to the point where Mae forgets that her actions have real world consequences, which troubles a few of her friends but not her bosses:

I know that this movie didn't do well at the box office or with most critics yet I have to say that I did like it. Yes, it has it's flaws(which I'll expand upon shortly) but I was never bored by the story and part of the reason for that was Emma Watson's performance.

She really drew you into her character and made Mae compelling to watch, even when she made stupid mistakes like stealing a kayak late at night(you have to see the movie to understand). Watson was adept at making Mae very believable, which added much to the overall plot.

I did like that there wasn't any overt "I plan to rule the world!" scheme presented as the company's goal since that trope has been done to death in many movies in this genre. It felt more like the guys running The Circle wanted to see just how much they could get away with and having an employee base of mostly twenty-somethings who are eager to soak up any pseudo-logic to justify notions such as eliminating personal privacy is a clear bonus to that end.

Yet, the movie seemed to be too subtle for it's own good in hindsight, not to mention making little use of John Boyega's character, who would seem to be a pivotal player but was kept on the sidelines too much.

Tom Hanks was picture perfect in his role as the smooth talking man with a plan and even managed to make some of the awkward dialogue that cropped up at times sound elegant. The vast majority of the performances were good(except for Coltrane, he was pretty sore thumb like at times) and visually, the movie looked great. Yet, it does have a glossy feel to it that I can see putting off a lot of folks watching it who expected more of a fast paced thriller due to the trailers.

I haven't read the Dave Eggers novel that the film is based on and since Eggers worked on the screenplay with director James Ponsoldt here, I have to assume that this is what he wanted. However, from what I have heard, the book is more of a social satire with a much darker ending. Maybe someone else should have adapted the script since quite a bit of that got lost in translation.

All in all, I was entertained by The Circle and there's a lot of interesting ideas being showcased here. Perhaps it's another case of "the book was better" or behind the scenes drama in the editing room that we don't know about. I would recommend The Circle for a matinee viewing(which is where I saw it) or for a future rental. It may not live up to it's full potential but there is some food for thought being served up that's worth tasting and talking about:

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