Lackluster plot dooms "The Circle"


When a film doesn’t screen for press, red flags fly. “The Circle,” starring Tom Hanks and Emma Watson did not have a press screening, at least not in Austin.

It is not difficult to understand why.

Riding on the heels of “Beauty and the Beast,” Watson, even coupled with Hanks, is given little with which to work in “The Circle” by director and co-writer James Ponsoldt.

Touted as a thriller, the film lacks the thrills so necessary for the genre. It also lacks a point.

Featuring a heavy-handed approach to well-worn themes, “The Circle” falters more than it succeeds, stumbling in its own confusion.

Based on a book by Dave Eggers, “The Circle” seeks to send timely messages regarding privacy, social media and technology tribulations, but it fails on all levels, lost in its own mess — never quite making any one point clear and missing every opportunity for good satire.

Watson plays Mae, a woman trying to succeed in a male-dominated profession, also in a world where everything she does is monitored. Watson, who seems not yet completely comfortable in her adult skin, does her best to carry her character and the film, and she manages a decent enough job given the mess she is forced to work with.

Hanks, however, cannot seem to ground his character. A CEO, friendly enough, with darker underpinnings, Hanks’ character lacks development and again, a clear point for existing, other than as a lamely-imagined villain.

Another pointless character is played by John Boyega, here taking a turn as a young creative genius who is supposed to have spawned the idea for the Google/Facebook-like platform that is central to the storyline.

Boyega might have been good in this... had his character meant anything to the story at all. We will never know. Like Hanks, his character’s purpose is lost in the confusion.

Since there are some obvious parallels to novels like “Brave New World” and “1984,” the plot’s dystopian fear mongering is overdone and weak in its delivery.

Pop-up chat bubbles narrating Mae’s life are clever, but not clever enough to hold interest. While the there are some visually interesting elements in the film, boredom comes quality with the untidiness and pointlessness of the plot.

In the case of “The Circle,” I wish I had gone with my gut — no pre-screening, no good. I am placing a D in my grade book and still wondering if it even deserves that good a grade.