Review: In The Circle, James Ponsoldt – a promising director with sympathetic character-driven dramas (Smashed, The Spectacular Now, and The End of the Tour) – attempts to create a Dr. Strangelove of the 21st century while substituting ‘The Bomb’ with ‘The Internet.’ Based on Dave Eggers’ 2013 novel, this is projected as a poignant satire to criticize how internet has taken over real life and, especially, threatened privacy. And yet, Ponsoldt ends up making a star-studded mess with mostly underused idea and, more, superfluous subject.
What happened was, by the time Eggers published the novel, the subject matter became highly relevant with global circumstances IN REAL TIME. Yet, one click later, three years have passed and, ironically, Eggers’ fears had some surfaced, emerged, and made real life stranger than fiction; and that’s how The Circle becomes irrelevant and, as I mentioned previously, superfluous.
The Circle instantly feels like rushed retelling of recent phenomena, which Ponsoldt loosely presents, although it seems to foresee the future (while now is the future). Messages about internet-life consequences, self-obsession, self-imaging, and similar things are stuffed into a kind of beware-of-these-danger niche. However, please trust me in this, Black Mirror has done this more convincingly in only 60 minutes.
The story of Mae Holland (clumsily portrayed by Emma Watson) dabbling into her new workplace – a super inventive, innovative, and immense corporate, The Circle, led by charismatic genius, Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks) – stutters in presentation. The narration feels overly jumpy and flat. Introductions to vigorous ideas and their ‘side-effects’ are brief and mostly unaspiring. Conflicts dry off as quickly as they start. Characters come and mostly go without leaving immediate impact or sympathetic feelings.
Watson is almost a miscast for dozen of reasons, and, one of them: she’s not attached to the character she’s portraying. Hanks is charming as usual; and to fault him is barely possible. Supporting roles actually have great inputs to Mae Holland’s motivation – but neither of them make lasting impressions – Karen Gillan’s heads strong but leaves quietly, John Boyega’s isn’t as influential as boasted, Bill Paxton’s feels bored, and Ellar Coltrane’s gives a new definition to: wasted potential.
While the premise about life-integrated internet might, after all, is compelling, The Circle falls flat in narrating the story, making it into a jumpy, incoherent collection of floating, outdated ideas. Even James Ponsoldt fails to show us his most powerful tools: sympathetic characters.
The Circle (2017)