Bil’s rating (out of 5): B.
United Arab Emirates/USA, 2017. 1978 Films, Imagenation Abu Dhabi FZ, Likely Story, Parkes+MacDonald Image Nation, Playtone, Route One Entertainment. Screenplay by James Ponsoldt, Dave Eggers, based on the novel by Dave Eggers. Cinematography by Matthew Libatique. Produced by Anthony Bregman, Gary Goetzman, James Ponsoldt. Music by Danny Elfman. Production Design by Gerald Sullivan. Costume Design by Emma Potter. Film Editing by Lisa Lassek, Franklin Peterson.
Emma Watson is barely surviving in a crappy temp job when her friend calls her up and tells her that she has gotten her an interview at the Googlesque communications company where she works, a technological theme park whose main product seems to be pure connectivity. Watson gets the job and is blown away by the work environment (high tech offices on a campus replete with all manner of lifestyle opportunities), and is overwhelmed by perks like a medical plan to take care of her father’s MS-related medical bills (played with touching effect by Bill Paxton, his appearance made all the more poignant by this film’s being released after his untimely death). After a weird and ill-explained second act involving her committing a public misdemeanor, Watson becomes buddies with the company’s leader (Tom Hanks) and he promotes her (again, with little explanation) to company mascot, an opportunity she runs with despite the fact that it means that her friend is, as a result, on the decline (another element that is, you guessed it, poorly explained). Watson’s idea is to go beyond using the company’s technology to connect socially and make it possible to keep close watch over the whole world, forcing a sense of accountability upon everyone that, she believes, will teach people to always be their best selves; a quickly hashed out plot turn in what is already an abysmally bad movie proves her wrong and forces her to reconsider her idea. Anyone with at least an ounce of intelligence knows that movies about places that seem too good to be true always turn out to be so, which means that the film should either do a better job of fooling the audience into thinking the place is great, thereby justifying Watson’s gullibility at falling for the dream that comes true before discovering its ugly underbelly, or the film should actually have Watson throw a suspicious eye from time to time at what she is being sold in order to pique our interest about what she plans to do about it. As it is, her inability to see through the Disney-like cheer of the place or the homey charm being doled out by her superiors makes her a poor protagonist to get on the side of, one who possesses very little common sense. A random wedge in the plot involving John Boyega as the man with the answers to the dirty truth is poorly inserted (most of his scenes feature dialogue being delivered off camera, so it is likely that there was a lot of panicked rewriting), while the cast is a collection of either surprisingly ineffectual performances (Hanks) or just bad ones (Boyhood‘s Ellar Coltrane, and Watson, who really needs to save up and buy a second facial expression someday). Because it is told with so little humour, the film amounts to little more than a message about the dangers of the internet and social media, which either makes it the best movie of 1995 or the worst episode of Black Mirror ever made.