When it comes to social media and technology, how much power and access should companies and the online community have?  This is the driving force of The Circle, a fairly tepid suspense movie.

Mae (Emma Watson) begins the movie with a pretty dull existence.  She works at a temp job doing billing in a small town.  She lives with her parents Bonnie (Glenne Headly) and and Vinnie (Bill Paxton), the latter of whom is battling M.S.  And everyone thinks Mae should be romantically involved with Mercer (Ellar Coltrane), a local teen who makes his own art.
Things change when Mae's friend Annie (Karen Gillan) gets her a customer support job at the Circle, a Facebook-type company.  It seems ideal to Mae: good money, a cool environment, and lots of social activities on the job.  But everyone seems to know everyone else's business -- including founder Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks), whose latest product is a miniature camera and whose philosophy is that openness and knowing everything is the goal.   (During one company lecture, behind Bailey is the slogan "Secrets Are Lies.")  And when the cameras wind up saving Mae's life, she agrees to live a totally transparent life, broadcasting virtually everything she does online.
But not all is well in the world of the Circle.  Tech genius Ty (John Boyega, in a barely-there role) worries about the lack of privacy in the world of the Circle.  The company is fighting legal battles and seems to have recruited a Congresswoman totally to their side.  And while Mae enjoys being a sudden online celebrity, her family and old friends don't share her enthusiasm for the online world.

The issues brought up in The Circle are real and relevant in today's world, but the movie's treatment of those issues is pretty slight.  There's no real discussion of those issues, and lacking those and largely any action, this movie can be quite dull.  It's a bit fun seeing Tom Hanks playing a Bill Gates type of executive, but Emma Watson's ordinary Mae doesn't leave much of an impact.  The Circle should have been so much better.

Overall grade: C-
Reviewed by James Lynch

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