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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

“The Circle” Film Fails to Stand Up to Novel

Allow me to sum up director James Ponsoldt’s film adaptation of David Eggers’ 2013 novel “The Circle.” In short: interesting, futuristic, and cool… but no thanks.

“The Circle” is a techno-thriller starring Emma Watson, John Boyega, and Tom Hanks (who also produced the movie). The film tells the story of a young and professionally unfulfilled woman named Mae Holland (Watson), who gets the opportunity to work for a major tech giant known only as “the Circle” (aka Google, Facebook, Apple, etc.). From there, everything changes for Mae.

Let’s start with what worked. Two words: Tom Hanks. Is there any role this guy does not absolutely crush? In addition to that, the film did a good enough job conveying the visual innovation of the social media platform known as the Circle.

Now for the parts that didn’t really work: Emma Watson and the script. In the books, Mae becomes more and more radicalized in her belief that everything must be shared with the world via mini-cameras created by the Circle. This, however, did not translate well to the big screen, probably because the film could not fit all that information and/or dialogue into a two and a half hour movie. Needless to say, if you read the book, then you would have picked up on this mid-way through the second act.

Also, the character of Ty Lafitte is a major mystery in the book. However, the film changes the character from a main plot driver, turning them instead into an underutilized secondary character whose identity is revealed to Watson’s character within the first 35 to 40 minutes of the film’s opening.

The film does manage to reignite the discussion of the right to privacy, though not to the level of the book. This is perhaps most evident in a particular scene between Mae and her parents, played by Glenne Headly and the late Bill Paxton, whose role in “The Circle” was his final film appearance. 

Then it pushes this motion even further, when Watson’s character begins to believe that anyone with a Circle account should automatically be registered to vote and pay their taxes, eliminating the use of government websites and so forth.

In the digital age and the post-Edward Snowden era, author David Eggers’ is clearly sending us all a pro-privacy message disguised as above-average fiction. Nowadays, everything is under attack, it would seem, and that includes the internet.

Government agencies have, in the past, tried to buy client information from major tech companies for a variety of reasons. Sure, our government wants to sell our information to marketing agencies so companies can know how to better sell their products to us. However, if you think their reasons end there, then you’re playing yourself.

“The Circle” is not going to blow you away by any means, but it will get you thinking. Of course, that’ll only happen if you get over Watson’s shocking staleness, the misuse of and gross lack of screen time for Boyega, and Hanks’ beard.

The film was based on a screenplay written by Ponsoldt and Eggersl. I mention this because Eggers had say in the screenplay; therefore, he knew that despite his efforts, the film would pale in comparison to the source material.
This is why money is a jerk. It turns brilliantly written novels of fiction into mild, watered-down works of mediocrity.