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Monday, May 8, 2017

Big Brother... with a Smiley Face

Every so often, a film aims to be thought-provoking and to make some kind of eye-opening social commentary about the human condition but somehow falls flat and fails to connect with the audience in a big way.  I’m sure this was not what the producers and director James Ponsoldt had in mind when they tackled the challenge of adapting Dave Eggers’ bestselling novel ‘The Circle,’ a cautionary tale about letting too much information into our lives and becoming too dependent on social networks, onto the big screen.
 
The story of a young woman (played by Emma Watson) who joins a chic Google-esque tech firm in Silicon Valley but increasingly finds herself the unwilling member of a cult of technology which happily and unquestioningly sacrifices individuality for the “greater good” of openness and full transparency, ‘The Circle’ is meant to sound an alarm and provoke debate on how technology is encroaching into our personal freedom and sovereignty.  Yet despite game performances from Watson and Tom Hanks, the latter as the charismatic and fatherly founder of ‘The Circle’ with all his homespun wisdom, the film never manages to find its footing as either suspense thriller or social satire.
 
While Eggers’ novel is powerful and effective, a true spiritual successor of dystopian classics such as George Orwell’s ‘1984’ and Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World,’ this movie is ill-conceived from the very start.  ‘The Circle’ should serve as a cautionary tale to Hollywood that not all bestselling books can be transplanted into feature films.

Grade: C- 

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