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‘The Circle’ review: Emma Watson and Tom Hanks can’t save Silicon Valley film

Tom Hanks, Emma Watson and Patton Oswalt can't

Tom Hanks, Emma Watson and Patton Oswalt can't save "The Circle" from failure. Photo Credit: STX Entertainment

‘The Circle’

Directed by James Ponsoldt

Starring Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, Patton Oswalt, John Boyega

Rated PG-13

Sometimes, up is down, north is south, front is back and our most fundamentally held truisms crumble into oblivion.

“The Circle” is directed by the top-notch filmmaker James Ponsoldt (“The Spectacular Now”); it’s an adaptation of a novel by the acclaimed author Dave Eggers (who co-wrote the screenplay with Ponsoldt); it stars Emma Watson, Tom Hanks and Patton Oswalt. The story taps into the zeitgeist in its portrayal of a social media company expanding its powers at an increasingly dangerous rate. It should, by any reasonable indication, be a movie that resonates.

And yet it’s precisely the opposite, a ham-fisted slog through sanitized doldrums, packed with platitudes and speechifying about technology and privacy.

It’s staggering, the degree to which the picture just marinates in its sterile Silicon Valley milieu, offering little of consequence in the way of drama, and even less of interest to say about the degree to which we have accepted digital surveillance as a condition of living in the 21st century.

Watson plays Mae Holland, hired to work at the eponymous tech company, an enormous and ever-expanding venture populated by millennial zombies and overseen by the deceptively benevolent, sweater-favoring CEO Eamon Bailey (Hanks, who is good at many things, but playing a villain, even a benign one, is not among them).

The screenplay focuses on the increasingly brazen intrusions The Circle launches onto the lives of its billions of users and also incorporates a subplot that borrows heavily from, yes, Ron Howard’s 1999 movie “EDtv,” which is something no one should ever do, trust me.

Meanwhile, John Boyega wanders around the background of a few scenes, waiting for the next “Star Wars” installment to start filming.

It’s a pretty colossal failure, in which a sinister and timely subject is transformed into whitewashed mush.

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