As I said in my Sunday Rundown this week, I never finished The Circle by Dave Eggers. I bought it way back in 2014 and tried to read it a couple of years ago, I think. I never got very far with it. Yesterday I posted a picture on Instagram of Dave Egger’s novel The Circle after I’d watched the film adaptation on Netflix. It created a lot of discussions, which I absolutely loved, but one of the comments suggested I finish reading the book because it “has its finger on the pulse of our zeitgeist.” Maybe it’s just me but isn’t this the most disgusting statement you’ve ever heard? Finger on the pulse of our zeitgeist? It’s the kind of thing some awful contestant on The Apprentice would say in their audition tape. “Oh yes, Lord Sugar, I’ve got my finger on the pulse of our zeitgeist.” Bleurgh. It’s also, if you ask me, not actually true anymore. The Circle was released in 2013 when social media was still coming into its own. Everyone was on Facebook and Twitter but we hadn’t reached the pinnacle that we have now. Now anyone can “go live” whenever they want and talk about any old shit they want. That’s the problem with the internet age; we’re always surpassing our vision for the future before we even realise.
Which is a fatal flaw for a film like The Circle. Its whole premise is about introducing us to a company that is willing to invade the privacy of its users in order to gain control. It’s a company who bases itself on the Foucauldian principle that if you’re always being watched then you won’t get into trouble. After creating their own specialist camera that can be placed anywhere and camouflaged to suit their surroundings, they are able to place them around the world so people can be monitored at all times. This quickly takes a step up when an employee of the company, Mae Holland (Emma Watson), agrees to have her entire life streamed across the internet after her own brush with the law. She becomes, as her enigmatic boss Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks) calls it, “fully transparent”. It is only after her friends and family become affected by her decision that Mae starts to question the company that she works for.
Now, internet privacy is a major issue in our society. We’re always being tracked: our phones, our computers, our spending habits are all passing on information about us to big companies. It’s been a hot topic with all major news outlets for a few years now so, back in 2013, Dave Eggers was probably at the cutting edge. However, everything has moved on since then. We now live in an age where every day preposterous things are happening around us. Reality has moved beyond fiction and we’re all in danger of being watched by every country in the world. With more and more smart appliances in people’s homes, we are living in an age where it could, plausibly, be possible for people to hack our fridges to find our about our private lives. As such, The Circle just doesn’t have the amount of dramatic tension that it believes it does.
Much of the run time is just close-ups of Emma Watson looking apprehensive but everything we’re hearing is just standard. The Circle is just slightly hyperbolic version of reality. This film just doesn’t have any suspense and it’s almost all exposition. The Circle doesn’t know what it’s trying to say. Or at least doesn’t have enough conviction in its own message to make it prominent. It struggles to understand the tone it should be striving for and can’t manage to find the humour in the story. The Circle hasn’t been given a UK release date because it received such a dismal opening in the US. Instead, it was sold to Netflix for an understated release amidst terrible reviews. And quite rightly. The Circle is a terrible film that rushes through its story and fails to find its purpose. It ends abruptly and without any real explanation. Most of the cast is wasted and Emma Watson fails to make a real impression. It doesn’t make me want to finish the book, that’s for sure.