It's easy to giggle at The Circle, the movie, just as it's easy giggle sometimes at Dave Eggers, whose novel is the film's source. James Ponsoldt's adaptation (co-written with Eggers) is, like Eggers' books, nakedly earnest, engaged with nothing less but The State of Things Now, more smart than its most fierce detractors will admit but also a little clumsy.
It's marked by the author's Young Adult zealousness and plotting that, depending on your sympathies, is either simplistic or fabulist. And sometimes it's just accidentally hilarious. After her first week as a "guppy" at a Facebook-times-Google Silicon Valley behemoth, much of which she spends knitting her eyebrows together in an expression of compelling uncertainty, Emma Watson's every-naif Mae becomes a social-media star, electing to broadcast online every non-bathroom moment of her life. (You just have to roll with this.) A thoughtless post shows her ex (Ellar Coltrane) brandishing a chandelier he's crafted from antlers. Strangers shout at him in public "Why don't you go kill some more deer, Mercer?"
Still, The Circle, like Eggers' books, glances against some truths, sometimes with wit. I laughed the right way at crisp first scenes, which follow the indoctrination of Watson's Mae, hired as a "Customer Experience" representative. Millions of office workers already understand that, for them, the dystopia will arrive wearing a lanyard. Tom Hanks is preeningly funny in the role of the company's co-founder and public face, and a setpiece showcasing the near impossibility of hiding from the internet is imbued with power thanks to Watson's face, lit from behind by a projector, as Mae stands on a stage staring up a screen, her back to a cheering audience.