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The Circle: The Movie was Better

Tom Hanks as Eamon Bailey. From YouTube official trailer.

By Natalie Cheyette

I have not been quiet about my dislike of the book The Circle, written by Dave Eggers in 2013. I regard it as an overhyped, but typical, YA dystopian novel, that was trying to be a modernized version of 1984. So imagine my pleasant surprise when I stepped out of the theater on Sunday afternoon and felt, if not affection, less cynical about it than before. The feeling was not, however, due to a renewed interest in the book. It was due to its slightly less bad movie adaptation.

The movie, The Circle, was star-studded, using such big names as Emma Watson (Mae Holland), Tom Hanks (Eamon Bailey), John Boyega (Ty Gospodinov), Karen Gillan (Annie Allerton), Patton Oswalt (Tom Stenton), Bill Paxton (Mae’s father), and Glenne Headley (Mae’s mother). However, like many movies that stuff celebrities in like a piñata, it was broken open to reveal not delicious candy, but those small cheap toys that are supposed to be fun but which everyone secretly hates. Though these actors are often regarded as the heroes of the screen, The Circle was not any of their best work.

However, that’s not entirely their fault. The movie was rushed at best, and didn’t spend much time on any one part of the story, which didn’t give the actors the chance to put on the amazing performances we would have expected from them. Instead of spending time on developing the characters and the company, the director chose to focus on the events. However, as anyone who has read any book knows, there are many events in a given story. In a book, you can spend a lot of time on each one because you don’t have many constraints for the length. In a movie, however, there are time constraints. So when the director tries to fit in every event that happens in the book, they are not able to spend the time required to make it significant and weighty, and the whole thing flops. That is what happened in this movie.

This manifested in many ways in The Circle, and was particularly noticeable in the corporation’s setup. Specifically, it seemed to be much less menacing than in the book.  The Circle does the same bad things (collecting everyone’s information, demonstrating SoulSearch and driving Mercer to his death, etc.), but because the time is spent demonstrating the acts and not creating the tone and attitude behind them, The Circle feels less like a deliberate threat and more like a toddler who didn’t know that it’s wrong to take things without asking.

The plot also changed. Usually, when a book becomes a movie, the movie shifts around minor details but ultimately keeps the story the same. In The Circle, however, it plays out like they were given the names of the characters and a one-sentence summary of the book and were told to fill in the rest. Everything was completely different, especially the ending, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

If you’re planning on watching the movie and don’t want it spoiled, this is where you should stop reading.

Emma Watson’s character, Mae, was much more lukewarm in regards to the Circle in the movie. She confesses to Ty that she didn’t like that the Congresswoman is going Transparent, and is much less eager to please Eamon and Tom than she was in the book. This increase in independency and intelligence makes her character much more likeable. It comes to a head at the end of the movie, when she works with Ty to expose Eamon and Tom to the world. Onstage at Dream Friday with the two of them, she notes what many of us noticed in the book: that everyone is required to be accountable except those two men. She places SeeChange cameras on them, challenging them to go Transparent, and then announces that all of the messages and emails that they’ve sent between them have already gone public, at which point Eamon turns to Tom and says, “We are so f***ed.”

Overall, I did like the movie better than the book. But at the same time, they’re both just overblown stories that tried to be significant and failed. They don’t add anything to a conversation except material to ridicule, and to me at least, it doesn’t make sense to regard them as anything more.

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