Silliness goes round and round in “The Circle,” a script that starts out with some smarts and dissipates into laughable melodrama. The villains are so obvious they might as well be wearing black hats.
What a waste of an interesting cast in a film that longs to be “The Social Network” but falls far short of that movie’s intelligence.
Emma Watson plays Mae Holland, a young woman who takes customer-complaint calls. Her loving mother Bonnie (Glenne Headly) has her hands full coping with the illness of her father (played wonderfully by the late Bill Paxton, in one of his final roles) who has multiple sclerosis.
Both her parents wish Mae would connect more with a young man named Mercer (Ellar Coltrane, “Boyhood”) who obviously loves her. Mercer believes in living a simple, honest existence making chandeliers from deer antlers, and does not get caught up in the world of social networks.
So, wouldn’t you know it, Mae lands a plum job at The Circle, a tech company that resembles what would happen if Facebook and Apple were to reproduce.
The campus of The Circle is astounding, with yoga classes and Beck (yes, the musician himself has a cameo) concerts. But once we see The Circle’s Steve-Jobs-esque CEO Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks), along with his weasel-y right-hand man (Patton Oswalt) we know it’s too good to be true: It’s more cult than utopia.
Bailey introduces satellite-connected, mobile cameras that can be attached to nearly any surface to create a web of surveillance and, so says Bailey, safety.
Company representatives urge Mae to become more involved in The Circle’s social network. Finally, after the company offers to help Mae’s parents with their medical expenses, she becomes a cheerleader for The Circle, and agrees to become “fully transparent” – that is, she agrees to live-stream her entire life 24/7.
Of course, privacy issues ensue, and the audience is led to consider the price of interconnectivity versus living “off the grid” of social media.
John Boyega (Finn in “Star Wars”) has a sort of mystery role as Ty, who conveniently reveals information to Mae.
Even in lesser roles, Hanks is fun to watch, as are Watson and Oswalt.
James Ponsoldt, who directed the far superior “The Spectacular Now,” helmed this script, which is based on the novel (apparently a good read) by Dave Eggers. It becomes so ridiculous that you might find yourself chuckling when the obvious begins to occur.
You’d probably have a much better time on Facebook, twitter or Instagram.