The Circle Parent Guide
This tale of a “Big Brother” who is watching you fails to create engagement or suspense.
Parent Movie Review
Have you ever noticed how some movies have trailers that turn out to be better than the actual film? That is definitely the case with this one. The promotional footage for The Circle will likely remind viewers of George Orwell’s classic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. Sadly, this tale of a “Big Brother” who is watching you fails to create the same kind of engagement or suspense.
In the 2017 story, Mae Holland (Emma Watson) is delighted to trade her cubical job for an exciting opportunity at a high-tech corporation called “The Circle”. Mimicking real-life Apple, the movie features a character named Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks) who is the founder of the organization. He walks the stage each week, introducing the company’s latest products to his crowd of adoring employees. He also preaches the ideology of a transparent society, where the collection of data and camera images will hold people accountable for their actions – and hence create a responsible community of human beings.
At first Mae seems to resist his rhetoric of “Knowing is good—knowing everything is better.” However, when she is offered health benefits for her extended family, including her father (Bill Paxton) who is suffering from MS (multiple sclerosis), Mae quickly “drinks the Kool-Aid”. (She literally does this during a visit to the company doctor where she ingests a liquid that allows all her biological functions to be monitored.)
As Mae becomes more embedded in her work community (or the community becomes more embedded in her), she fails to heed cautions from outsiders, like her mom (Glenne Headly) and high school friend (Ellar Coltrane). And when she starts getting recognition from Eamon Bailey himself, she even turns a deaf ear to the concerns of co-workers such as her buddy Annie (Karen Gillan) who is burning out from job stress, or the software’s original developer Ty (John Boyega) who is disheartened by the way his invention is being used.
And that’s about that same point my sympathy tuned out. If the main character can’t hear the warnings from her parents about giving up her privacy, or see the problems with handing over her agency to an all-powerful corporation that has no restrictions on how they use such information or power, how are young audiences supposed to see the dangers of Mae’s situation? This alarming message is combined with the approval of throwing one’s personal life onto the internet to be judged by the whims of the anonymous public. The film also includes mild and moderate profanity, social drinking, a married couple caught on camera while engaged in sex, and depictions of bullying that lead to tragic consequences.
The production fails from an artistic point of view too. The plot is tedious and neglects opportunities to explore characters’ motives. The performances seem forced and overbearing. Considering the increasing amount of surveillance happening in our modern society, there really were many facets the script could have explored. Instead it assumes, anticlimactically, that the invasion of privacy is a trend that can’t be stopped. For those concerned about such issues, the unbalanced perspective presented here will be one that is hard to swallow.Directed by James Ponsoldt. Starring Tom Hanks, Emma Watson, Karen Gillan. Running time: 109 minutes. Theatrical release April 28, 2017. Updated May 4, 2017
Rating & Content Info
Why is The Circle rated PG-13? The Circle is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for a sexual situation, brief strong language and some thematic elements including drug use.
Violence: A character, without a life jacket, paddles a kayak and is tossed into the ocean when the boat capsizes. Characters break minor rules and trespass. Some mild teasing, public shaming and serious bullying are portrayed. Police tackle and handcuff a fugitive. Citizens harass a private individual. A car chase leads to an accident, and fatalities occur. Mob mentality and incitement are depicted. Personal privacy is violated. Characters are suspected of selfish and/or malicious motives.
Sexual Content: A married couple engage in sexual activity, and are shown in bed together with the woman straddling the man. When images of this event are shown on the internet, some sexual discussion ensues. Other sexual references and innuendo are heard.
Profanity: The sexual expletive is used once in a non-sexual context. The script includes infrequent use of scatological slang, mild and moderate profanity, crude words and terms of deity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Characters often drink alcohol at social events and backyard gatherings. Some medical procedures are shown and medication is ingested.
Page last updated May 4, 2017
The Circle Parents' Guide
The character Eamon Bailey (played by Tom Hanks) uses a lot of arguments to convince his audience that his company is trying to protect humanity. In what ways does he feel the accumulation of all knowledge will be a benefit to society? Why does he think the collection of personal and public data will make people more accountable? Why does he fail to mention who will use the information or make the judgements? What ulterior motives do you think he may have?
At some points in the movie, Mae seems concerned about her personal information, but later becomes very comfortable with sharing it. What do you think influences her feelings? What benefits does she get from being transparent? How does Eamon Bailey use her motives to the company’s advantage? Why do you think Mae is willing to overlook the tragic consequences some of her friends and family face because of the lack of privacy, and continue to be part of The Circle?
In the script, the characters conclude that secrets are lies. Do you agree? Is there ever a good reason to keep something confidential? Are there times when full disclosure can cause harm? What would happen if all political decisions (such as military strategies, financial negations or committee discussions) were made available for all to hear? Is the general public informed enough to weigh in on all topics? What might happen if some of the information was misunderstood and created a mob reaction?