Friday, August 4, 2017

The Circle

There's an interesting premise to this adaptation of the Dave Eggers novel about a woman forced to redefine concepts like privacy and community after being hired by one of the world's largest technology companies. The Circle (think Apple meets Facebook, but more cult-ish) provides Mae (Emma Watson) with all she's every wanted, including healthcare for her ailing father (Bill Paxton). However, the level of intrusiveness the company not only engages in but celebrates opens the door to some big questions (which, unfortunately, the film doesn't really do much to explore).

It would have been very easy for The Circle to be a thriller about the invasion of technology and destruction of privacy, an evil corporation out to do bad things with data, and a world seeming unaware at what they are giving up. The film, however, has bigger aspirations than that, bringing some intriguing questions to the forefront while constantly fighting off the tendency to fall into easy cliche.

Watson is in fine form while Tom Hanks makes for a fun choice of The Circle's head honcho with an understated Patton Oswalt as his right-hand man. In one of the featurettes there's discussion about changes made in adapting the novel to screen (characters combined, plot threads dropped, etc.) which make me wonder if the book is more successful in delving into the larger issues while the film has to play largely on the surface to juggle its various elements. Actors like Karen Gillan, Ellar Coltrane, and Paxton are only somewhat relevant touchstones to explore Mae's backstory while each gets lost in subplots that Eggers and screenwriter James Ponsoldt seem to forget about for long stretches of time.

The Circle does present some rather persuasive arguments for given up some privacy, while also showcasing the tragic effects of what such decisions can unleash. The choice to turn Mae into an evangelist and promoter of transparency about a third of the way through drives the film in a tired direction which movies like Edtv, Notting Hill, and countless others have already mined. It's sad to see because even though our lead character's conclusion is more nuanced and interesting than what we've seen before, the journey to get there feels relatively uninspired.

Available on DVD and Blu-ray, extras include a multi-part featurette on the making of the film, a separate featurette on the film's production design and the look at the technology presented in the film, and a farewell to Bill Paxton who died prior to the film's release.

[Lionsgate, Blu-ray $39.99 / DVD $29.95]

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