Mae Holland (Emma Watson) lives a fairly ordinary kind of life.
She's a recent college graduate who still lives at home.
She's working a temp job where she sits in a cubicle taking calls
from customers who are upset about their utility bill.
Her parents are still together, and they seem to be loving and
accepting, but her Dad's got M.S., and he's getting worse by the day,
which just makes her sad. For
recreation, she likes to rent a kayak and just go out on the Bay paddling
on the water. If she has any
siblings, we don't meet them. She
doesn't seem to have a boyfriend, either, although there's a kid from the
neighborhood, Mercer (Ellar Coltrane), who actually works with his hands,
unlike most everybody else she knows.
We meet one outside friend, Annie (Karen Gillan), who works at this
huge high-tech social media firm called “The Circle.”
When Annie tells Mae that she got her an interview there, Mae is
simply ecstatic. Everyone
wants to work there.
And now that Mae has arrived at “The Circle,” it's even more
exciting than she thought. It's
full of young, bright, creative, energetic people, who dress informally,
whose work space is clean and uncluttered, and who inhabit this lovely
campus with many different kinds of recreational opportunities, for
interaction among employees. Mae
works very hard at her new job, trying to get her customer surveys to 100%
satisfied. She's encouraged to
sign up for extracurricular social activities, even though they're
supposedly voluntary. Since
the company's tracking devices are legendary, they know exactly where
she's been. Oh, the problem is
going home to help take care of an ailing Dad?
Hey, no worries, we can put him and your Mom on your insurance
plan. You want to kayak?
Hey, why not ask one of your co-workers to come along?
Oh, and as part of your company physical, we'll supply you with
this medical monitoring device, free.
You just wear it like a watch, and we'll be able to alert you about
any significant change in your cholesterol, or blood pressure, or liver
There's a small part of Mae that's still resisting all this
happened to personal privacy? And
she meets one of the original founders of The Circle, who cautions her
about where all this monitoring is headed.
But after Mae earns some notoriety by capsizing a purloined kayak
at night and having to be fished out of The Bay by helicopter, she goes on
stage with the smooth-talking CEO, Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks), and agrees to
“go transparent”: to be
monitored 24/7, with the world available to tweet their reactions.
And they do. She has
millions of viewers. And every
conversation she has with anybody—co-workers, parents, friends,
anybody---is posted online, as well.
But as we all know, people are not always their best selves when
they can write anonymous blogs. Not
only is “cyberbullying” possible, but there's also the dynamic of Mob
Mentality, and Groupthink. Animal
pictures are cute, trophy hunters are bad, nature pics are cool, but
anybody caught hitting someone else is bad----you know how this works.
And sometimes cameras catch people doing things they don't
necessarily want the world to see. And
there can be unintended consequences.
As popular as Tom Hanks is as an actor, there's a “dark side”
to his character here that we're barely willing to acknowledge.
Emma Watson is enough of a veteran actor to skillfully portray the
nuances of the classic Eve: complete
innocence at first, followed by a curiosity to push the boundaries of her
knowledge, followed by a sudden fall from grace.
But is there life outside of Eden?