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The Circle aimes for satire, but ends up a big obnoxious mess

The Circle is a clueless movie based on the novel by Dave Eggers, a lame attempt at satire in regards to social networking and the invasion of privacy during the digital age.

The setup is certainly interesting but the execution seems like something perpetuated by a 14 year-old, D+ student who waited until he or she was on the school bus to scribble out a paper on the perils of social networking before first period class.

After slaving away at a temp job, Mae Holland (Emma Watson) lands a gig at The Circle thanks to her friend Annie (Karen Gillan), a top player at the company. The Circle is all of your basic modern day computer entities-Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc.-wrapped into one big digital corporate burrito. It's run by a friendly looking, coffee cup toting, Steve Jobs-like entity named Bailey and his sidekick Stenton (Patton Oswalt, aka TV's Son of TV's Frank on the new incarnation of Mystery Science Theater 3000).

Mae progresses from a customer service rep to a big player in the company seemingly overnight, and let's just say that ascension is a wee bit unconvincing. She goes from apprehensive but competent newbie, who thinks some of what The Circle offers as a networking platform is a bit much and invasive, to a full-on advocate and believer of what she's peddling.

How does Mae become a full advocate of The Circle, and a pawn in Bailey's evil scramble for world digital domination? She has a kayaking mishap, and is saved because The Circle had a camera on a buoy in San Francisco Bay.

The film was subject to some major reshoots, and it wouldn't be surprising if the kayaking sequence was something pushed into the movie as a last minute plot device. It also wouldn't be surprising if the kayaking thing was in there from the start, because everything in this movie feels arbitrary and tacked on.

Mae's relationship with her friend, Annie, goes sour with very little warning and no real explanation other than Annie is envious of Mae's success. Annie is a pal in one frame, and then an adversary a few frames later. It feels like the movie is missing something with her character, as it does with Mercer (Ellar Coltrane), a Mae friend who takes a lot of flack after she posts a pic of the antler chandelier he made. That flack is mostly from animal activists, and probably people who generally have good taste because his work is ugly as all Hell.

Watson's portrayal of Holland's supposed turmoil and opinion swings lacks any sort of dimension, wit, or shock value. Yes, much of this can be blamed on the screenplay written in part by Eggers himself and director James Ponsoldt. It lacks the sort of insight and dark humor this sort of film craves. But, while often an enjoyable movie presence, Watson might lack the talent to pull a role like this, one that requires her to be unlikeable in many ways.

The film is clearly taking a stab at satire, but it has no bite, and its tone is often grating. Sequences like Mae's interview and job orientations feel like they belong in another, less reality-based movie. They are also horribly acted and staged.

There a lot of things that make this movie lousy, and it's level of stink is stunning considering that it's directed by Ponsoldt, who was on a roll after the 1-2-3 punch of Smashed, The Spectacular Now and The End of the Tour. It's also sad that this stands as the last film appearance for Bill Paxton who plays Mae's ill father. He's a great actor who deserved a better sendoff than this miserable reunion with Apollo 13 costar, Hanks.

Watson looks, and probably is, lost in this movie. For those of you plunking down the bucks to see a Tom Hanks movie, know that he is only in a few scenes and looks equally lost. He's also takes a lot of blame for this fiasco because he co-produced.

The Circle is obnoxious, sloppy and full of aimless arguments that have no true conclusions. You know ... like most of your Facebook and Twitter news feeds.

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