First Run Revue is an ongoing series of conversational reviews aimed at generating interactive discussions between The Movie Revue staffers along with the general public. Films discussed will be first-run, theatrical films and we’d love to hear what you have to say.
In this edition, contributing film critic Brian Wallinger and Editor-in-chief Ben Cahlamer sit down to discuss James Ponsoldt’s polarizing The Circle.
BEN CAHLAMER: Hello, Brian. Thanks again for joining me this week as we talk about James Ponsoldt’s The Circle.
BRIAN WALLINGER: Thank you, Ben for having me back. Are you referring to that insult of a film?
BC: Wow! What didn’t you like about the film?
BW: To be fair to our readers, it was the first film I walked out on in five years.
BW: I can’t even tell you how the film ends, Ben. Ponsoldt, who directed The End of The Tour had an A-list cast with Tom Hanks, Emma Watson, John Boyega . . . the cast just tore itself apart from the beginning.
BC: I agree with you that it is fundamentally flawed, but I think that’s its point. I’m Recommending it.
BW: How can you recommend this film? The script is dull, lifeless……
BC: It’s a very timely script. We’re in the midst of huge corporations infiltrating the very fabric…….
BW: I’ll give you that the film is timely. But look at the acting. Emma Watson, the beloved Harry Potter actress, seems to have developed a rather selfish attitude. Tom Hanks looked as if he is just playing a caricature of himself running a scandalous communications company . . . .
BC: He was meant to emulate Steve Jobs or Larry Page. I thought he did a pretty good job of emulating either of those real-life personalities.
BW: Alright, I grant you that. But that script; there’s nothing even remotely human about it.
BC: Without giving any spoilers away, which the trailer did plenty enough damage, I’d say that Mae (Emma Watson) realizes about a third of the way through that she is becoming something she didn’t want to become. Ellar Coltrane as Mercer, who I hear was amazing in Boyhood is pretty human in this film too, relying on his hands and wits to make his way through life. Look at Vinnie (Bill Paxton) and Bonnie (Glenne Headly) as Mae’s parents, who are suffering in their own way. There’s an extremely embarrassing sequence involving all of them which serves as the impetus for Mae’s change.
BW: That may all be well and good, but I still contend that the film felt like it was packed full of over-privileged Southern California millennials. . . .
BC: I thought they were in the Bay Area? I didn’t feel that Mae didn’t start her journey as being over-privileged.
BW: Northern California then. It still feels like the movie was generated by a computer instead of a human.
BC: The film is definitely not without its flaws, but I respectfully disagree. If you look at similar films like Anti-Trust, or Hackers, Humanity is also evolving and people are requiring transparency out of our leaders. The film spoke to the need for the responsibility that comes with power. I’d add that Matthew Libatique’s sweeping cinematography balances the characters and their stories.
BW: It’s interesting that we fell on opposite sides of this film. I refused to sit through one more agonizing minute . . .
BC: You missed the very best part of the movie.
BW: The credits?
BC: No. Mae turns the tables quite effectively. The story is a bit heavy handed in its subject matter and pacing. At the same time, it’s relevant for the times we’re in. Humanity can and will find its way. I’m not entirely sure that the younger generation is as ‘entitled’ as we think they are. They just do things differently than we do. And that’s okay.
Do you have any other thoughts about the film, Brian?
BW: Social media is already bad enough as it is. A film about it running and watching everything is just a bad joke I hope to God never comes true.
BC: If the world of tomorrow wants transparency through electronic means, we have to be ready for the consequences. And I think this is what the movie tried to explore. We’re, all of us, responsible for our future.
This was, sadly, Bill Paxton’s last theatrical role and he played it with fine distinction. James Ponsoldt’s direction and story choices are appropriate. He’s got a bright future ahead of him.
BW: Wow, I didn’t realize this was Bill Paxton’s final role. He was a tremendous actor. Thank you for having me back, Ben.
BC: A pleasure as always.