The Circle

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

The Circle

The Circle is perfectly timed for this moment. To dismiss its premise as impossible is to ignore history. While every decade can be identified by its primary thrust, the one that has changed the professional, business, and personal lives of the world is surely the Internet. Rooted in that change, this movie shows us the problems that often follow enormous transitions. The good comes first, the bad often follows. We can already see and sense the growing erosion of privacy that this movie envisions.

The Circle is the name of a spectacular new city where people live and work in a culture of sharing their lives. Privacy is eliminated (“bad things happen in privacy”) and all people live in the dream world of friendship, luxury, sports, social gatherings, and work as they create a new culture that travels round the world on the Internet. Everyone is proud to be hired to live and work in The Circle. They have become passionate adherents of a new culture wrapped in a deceptive coating of progress, friendship, and caring.

Mae (Emma Watson) and Circle boss Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks) show us what might happen in the future. Initially, new hire Mae has simmering doubts, especially when she meets Ty (John Boyega) the disaffected original founder of The Circle. Bailey has wrapped Ty’s original concept in fine sounding theories and sold it to millions around the world as open caring, open sharing. He announces at a packed meeting the company’s new product: a marble size glass ball that can be attached to any person or any building. He has put forty of these in a European city where no human detail escapes observation.

Bailey’s goal? Everyone will wear a marble, every detail of their lives will be automatically shared with the world. After two tough happenings in her own life, Mae squashes her suspicions and embraces Bailey’s “full transparency.” He preaches that lost children will be found in eight minutes, that dictators can’t thrive in public life and democracy will be strengthened. Privacy is the enemy. Everyone will thrive. It is “the chaos of the world made elegant.” Bailey assures his thousands of followers that his plans will cure disease, end hunger. Everyone will know everything. If you are laughing by now, reconsider.

In her usual understated way, Emma Watson plays it straight and effectively. Tom Hanks creates a convincing deceiver covered in his phony good intentions. If you think the big picture here is extreme, what is your reaction when you remember the world without the Internet? We have already learned that in its few decades the Internet has already allowed the computer to rule the communication and behavior of the world. Before you laugh, remember that enormous world change is always open to selfish misuse. The fine casting of Emma Watson and Tom Hanks reminds us to continue asking ourselves the central question of the movie: Where is the Internet’s erosion of our privacy taking us?

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : The Circle
Word Count : 502
Running time: 1:50
Rating : PG-13
Date : May 7, 2017

 

Norman

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

Norman

Norman belongs to Richard Gere and his astonishing portrait of a New York City hustler. Add to that the rare sophistication of the filming and musical score created by director Joseph Cedar and his production team. In perfect collusion with the star, the musical background speaks for Norman when he is silent, almost as if the music is reading his mind.

Norman Oppenheimer appears to be without a home, family, or friends. He connives his way through life by plotting on park benches, on cocktail napkins in bars, and while wandering the streets of New York. The early scenes may test your patience while the film takes its time showing us that he has not one thing on his mind but his next victim. Who can he find to use? Hang in, because the last third of this movie is nothing less than brilliant.

Next victim? That would be Eshel (Lior Ashkenazi) a good Israeli/politician/lawyer who is down on his luck at the moment. The two men meet by chance in New York in front of a shoe store window where Eshel finds an expensive pair of shoes he loves. Rifling through his head full of possible deals, Norman buys the shoes for Eshel as a gift. When Eshel becomes Prime Minister of Israel, Norman Oppenheimer is just a few steps behind. He pulls out his cocktail napkin diagram of contacts and worms his way into Israeli politics with all the ugly plans he designs as he goes. For a short while we watch Norman become a figure in the political intrigue of the new Prime Minister

We know that the hustler’s tools are boasting and exaggeration of what he can do. In an odd coincidence, this movie opens at the same time that respected banks and brokerage houses are making the headlines of the Wall Street Journal with their newly exposed hustling of their own customers. Access is the name of every hustler’s game.

What lifts this movie way beyond the ordinary is director Joseph Cedar’s skill in setting Richard Gere loose to wander through surroundings that are designed as an artful, musical painting while Gere delivers a superb, nearly silent performance of his own creation. He does all this against a unique and powerful background that has itself become a character in the story. He walks silently through streets and buildings while opening his mind for us to read. No words needed.

In an admirable portrait of a life built on artifice, the supporting cast is excellent. Credit Steve Buscemi as the Rabbi, Charlotte Gainsbourg as Alex, Dan Stevens as Bill Kavish among a large number who support the central player as he walks through a life of delusion. Joseph Cedar blends these actors with new technology to create a story about a fellow we can’t admire. Result: just try taking your eyes off the screen as Richard Gere turns an unpleasant story into a brilliant portrait of a loser.

FILM CRITIC: JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : Norman
Word Count : 499
Running Time : 1:57
Rating : R
Date : April 30, 2017