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The Circle Review

By Matthew Passantino

The Shapeless Circle

Most likely the year's first big disappointment, "The Circle" is a movie that has just about everything going for it and capitalizes on almost none of it. Curiously dull and unwieldy, director James Ponsoldt's film is a relatively big misfire for the talented storyteller (his previous films include "The Spectacular Now" and "The End of the Tour").

You have to give it to the people who cut the trailer for "The Circle," which is based on the book by Dave Eggers, for putting together a tease and adding a sense of mystery to the story. None of that is present in the film's final product, which is pervasively flat from start to finish.

Emma Watson stars as Mae Holland, who has been working at a dead end job as a bill collector, calling people daily to inform them of things like paying a bill for $78.13, when it was actually for $78.31. She's lost and bored and understandably thrilled when her friend Annie (Karen Gillian) scores her an interview at The Circle, a giant tech company, which can be best described as a Google-Apple hybrid.


The company operates in its own little world and appears to be very overwhelming for Mae. Rather quickly, she catches the attention of the company's founder, Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks) and co-founder Tom Stenton (Patton Oswalt), who select Mae to lead a project of total transparency. She will wear a camera on her shirt and allow the world to watch every move she makes, every place she goes and every interaction she has, whether it's with her parents (Glenne Headly and the late Bill Paxton) or her anti-tech ex-boyfriend, Mercer ("Boyhood" star Ellar Coltrane).

Bailey's idea of total transparency and Mae's willingness to accept the task are interesting areas to explore, merely from a dramatic standpoint. Once the camera is pinned to Mae's sweater, "The Circle" has no idea what it wants to do from there or where it wants to take its story. The movie visibly flounders from scene-to-scene, without any connective tissue bringing the big ideas together.

Ponsoldt's films have been so effective because of his ability to craft stories with fully developed characters that aren't perfect and he is never afraid to show all of their dimensions. Everyone here is so thinly drawn but only Hanks can wring any kind of personality out of a role that asks so little of him.

"The Circle" is more interested in grand speeches, consisting of stilted dialog, rather than its story. Its notion of a technology-dominated universe isn't exactly groundbreaking but the questions and moral implications are certainly intriguing. It's a shame "The Circle" doesn't know that.

What did you think?

Movie title The Circle
Release year 2017
MPAA Rating PG-13
Our rating
Summary A curiously flat movie about our tech-obsessed world.
View all articles by Matthew Passantino
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