Tribeca Fest Review: Tom Hanks, Emma Watson in ‘The Circle’

Emma Watson in “The Circle”

I wanted to like “The Circle.” After all, it stars Tom Hanks, Emma Watson of “Harry Potter” and “Beauty and the Beast” fame, and comedian Patton Oswalt – actors I always enjoy. Plus, I was interested in the subject matter – the mining of our personal information from our activities on the internet and our phones.

Hanks plays the CEO of The Circle, a company that everyone wants to work for because its campus (where employees even live most of the time) has all sorts of recreational activities and perks. When Watson gets a job there, a party on campus even includes a Beck concert.

Part technology company and part cult (think Scientology), The Circle expects employees to interact with each other to a ridiculous degree. Watson is confronted by two creepy fellow employees who already know, due to the mining of her information, that her father (played by the late Bill Paxton in his final movie appearance) has multiple sclerosis. One of them is upset to learn that Watson went kayaking alone when he also enjoys kayaking. They encourage her to embrace the community, as if personal solitude is “so 1999.”

What follows is both unpredictable and predictable, and I don’t want to give too much away. My problem with the film is its credibility. I don’t mean in terms of what technology can do and how it’s already infiltrating our privacy. That I believe. It was the characters who didn’t always seem credible.

Tom Hanks in “The Circle”

Would there really be this enormous corporation full of worker bees who are all ready to give up their privacy, and with such Stepford Wife-like excitement? Would they truly be willing to be so transparent on the internet with the world, knowing as we all do, how many nasty internet trolls there are out there?

I also had some trouble believing Watson’s character’s dramatic trajectory in the film. It just didn’t ring entirely true to me.

That said, I haven’t read Dave Eggers’ book, which the film is based on. So I can’t speak to how true the movie has been to its original material, although Eggers did write the screenplay with director James Ponsoldt.

Even if “The Circle” isn’t entirely successful, it will certainly get people talking about the importance of privacy and whether it’s simply “old news.”

The film premiered this week at the Tribeca Film Festival and opens in theaters tomorrow, Apr. 28, 2017.


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