this is a different kind of movie. if you’re looking for action you won’t find it. if you’re looking for plot, you’ll only sort of find it. neither of those things are very important to what the movie is trying to do anyway, which is present conflicting ideas.
i won’t pretend this is a great movie by any means because it isn’t. emma watson’s character’s motivations, desires, and thinking are basically always unknowable. john boyega’s character is completely wasted in the final cut, and i honestly wonder if entire scenes featuring him are missing. it’s even reasonably removed from the realities of some of its situations–sure, state governments are just clamoring for compulsory voter registration and ballot access, and sure, livestream comments are super chill and free of both trolls and creepy men demanding boobs or winking that she doesn’t need to get in bed alone. the movie would have you imply using your real identity means you won’t do those things. bitch, men do that face to face in public.
i found quite a few things in here enjoyable, though. most of the performances are pretty good. mae hitting up the river to go kayaking is always a metaphorical trip into her own mind, even when it’s a literal trip that results in plot movement. before she gets tipped out of the kayak everything is foggy because she’s feeling confused after her conversation with mercer (who sucks, by the way, he’s meant to be a symbol of disconnect from the wired society but he just comes off as a rube and a philistine). she has a cry over her dad’s condition out on the river, but never, ever, in view of anyone else. the growing distance between mae and karen gillan’s character after she starts wearing the camera was smart and important too. some of the latter’s behavior is eventually explained away as stimulant abuse, but really, if your best friend is now broadcasting 100% of the time, sure, they consented to that, but you didn’t. their attempt to connect to everyone could, and here does, prevent an actual connection with anyone.
there’s a weird conflict with her actually. she brings mae in to the circle. she’s in the inner lolpun circle at the company. she’s around the world trying to slip through regulations and lobby governments. why is she so disgusted with mae? when she calls mae a “natural” during the onstage interview, why is that with a sneer? it’s fine if you want this character to become disillusioned. you just have to actually show her becoming disillusioned, when what was actually shown was her literally being on speed so she could work for the company more but also randomly turn on her friend and call an idea that would make the company billions of dollars–if it worked out, which, this being the voting idea, it would not, but in this universe apparently it already has–openly calling that bullshit. she’s right, this is a step toward the circle trying to become the government whether knowingly or not, and patton oswalt basically says as much. it’s just odd, and without much precedent, that she has this opinion. maybe this is like the ty storyline too. maybe important stuff was cut. maybe i should read the book.
and it was JARRING to see patton oswalt play a COO in this movie. i saw him last night as TV’s son of TV’s frank. he does fine, he isn’t given much to do and he does it fine, but it was just jarring.
ultimately what was interesting to me is the movie has a lot of ideas to offer and a lot of things to say, but does not make a final word. it clearly shows that the kind of scenario presented by the circle can lead to dangerous levels of public harassment for no reason. but it also presents that exact same thing as a good thing, when an escaped convicted killer is caught. “here’s how that idea works. here’s why it does not.” that this product was named SoulSearch is clever. you have to decide for yourself whether the kind of collective consciousness that allows anyone to be found quickly is actually a good idea. there’s many people in this world who believe being able to track a criminal instantly is a great idea, and the film does nothing to combat any of those premises. it simply says, here’s column A, and here’s column B. the only final word it does make is ultimately kind of a tired one, and one that anyone of any persuasion can find a way to relate to: when someone wants all your information but doesn’t reveal their own, do not trust them.
if the question is, is more googlefacebook good or bad? the circle replies, “here’s how the services at stake are both good and bad, but you should DEFINITELY be wary of mark zuckerberg and sundar puchai.”
mae goes from naive to ready to bring down the CEO in an instant. a plan to do so is concocted completely off-screen in an entire act featuring john boyega that is missing from the movie. then, i guess it’s implied that emma watson is now CEO of the circle through the Highlander Rule, and is still down with mass surveillance at all times? i don’t know, the ending is oblique and not very satisfying, even if tom hanks’s reaction to being exposed is hilarious.
at the end of the day, the circle is an interesting alternate universe, and apart from the unrealistic internet comments and bizarrely pro-democracy state governments, its problems do not lie on screen. its problems are in what’s left out, and that leads me to wish this wasn’t a movie, but rather a 4-season show on like AMC, or netflix, or hulu. (not amazon. fuck you amazon. you have no business in this market.) the whole first episode would be introducing mae and mercer and mae’s family and annie and end with the interview scene. the whole second episode would worldbuilding the circle and establishing characters there, and end with that mysterious missed connection with ty. this is already the length of the whole movie. mercer might not even die until the end of the second season. the run-up to exposing tom hanks whose character’s name i forgot could be the ENTIRE FINAL SEASON. THAT HAPPENS OFF SCREEN IN THIS MOVIE. usually modern movies are way too long but this one needed more, a lot more, and it’s interesting and Not Bad but ultimately unsatisfying, like a dry sandwich, but you were out of bread so you used a hamburger bun.
that’s a fitting ending, i feel.