Director: James Ponsoldt
Starring: Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, John Boyega
It's time to face facts; Emma Watson's adorable real life presence has masked that she's not as talented as we want her to be. We fell in love with her portrayal of Hermione, supported her as she branched out into other films, and have since been dying for her to live up to our expectations. After all, she's both beautiful and approachable, a strong role model off-camera, a riveting face on-screen, an actress who seems to be the Anne Hathaway antithesis; someone we're actually rooting for and would pay to have as a friend. I'm gushing, I know, I adore Watson, but she has that demeanor, something all Hollywood desires, I just wish it was backed up by spectacular acting. Stars like Jennifer Lawrence win us over and then leave us hanging, but are always so full of talent that we forgive them for it. Emma Watson is the wonderful British girl next door, but just doesn't have the chops to become the next cinema icon; a disappointing realization.
Welcome to the Circle, a company that makes global life better one incredible invention at a time. When Mae joins the Circle as a costumer service rep, she begins to understand the value of having all information all in one place, having the entire world connected by computers until there's enough data to solve any problem. Her father's health improves because of the Circle's health research, Mae's social life takes off because of the Circle's networking, and all she can see are magical possibilities for a planet run by a single, giant, magnanimous network that works for the betterment of humanity. But soon, as the Circle's control grows broader and broader, Mae realizes that individual rights and privacies are disappearing at an alarming rate, that society is on the verge of being completely controlled by social media, and that her own life has spun entirely out of her control.
The Colony, Regression, Beauty and the Beast, and now The Circle; how many more chances are we going to give her? These are the films that were supposed to cement Watson as an independent talent, someone who could break away from the Harry Potter mold. And what makes things worse is that we want her to, we want her to succeed, we want to find her dazzling in every single role. But instead, in film after film, she graces the screen with her adorable nature but fails to also deliver the caliber of talent necessary to take the next step. And it's not like the opportunities aren't there, it's not like she's waiting for her shot, these movies are quite respectable, especially the last two, she's just not capable of a transcendent performance. Now, she's still better than 99.9% of us, she's still a star, please don't think that I'm saying that she should abandon acting because she's only as good as a high schooler playing in Godspell. What I'm saying is that we need to lower the bar, we need to understand that she's not going to take a film to the Oscars, which then may aid in our enjoyment of her characters. And if she ever does knock our socks off, we'll be more than ready to give a standing ovation.
You know who isn't a better actor than the vast majority of Americans? Ellar Coltrane. I will defend Boyhood, I loved it, I thought it was one of the very best films of its year. But I don't think the kid is a natural actor, and sadly that shows in this movie. He's definitely the worst, but he also isn't alone, as most of the cast (minus Tom Hanks) joins him in generally sucking. Karen Gillan, John Boyega, Patton Oswalt; they may not have been helped by what was one of the worst screenplays ever written, but they also didn't step up. I like Dave Eggers, I enjoyed A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, but this script was terrible, and I would be embarrassed were I he or James Ponsoldt. You could give them credit for steering away from the easy, thriller road the film could have gone down, but don't be too generous, the resulting plot was basically devoid of action, intrigue, or drama. The Circle is both shockingly boring and terribly done, a combination of bad acting and bad production that leaves you wishing you could get your money back. I don't think I'll trust Watson any more until she proves me wrong, something for which I'll be hoping but not holding my breath.