Art often imitates life, and there is a certain degree of poignancy to “The Circle” in today’s frenetic social media circus. Based on the novel by the same name, author Dave Eggers fabricates a Bay Area tech giant, stealing attributes from companies that rhyme with boogle, pacenook, fapple, and assorted Silicon Valley success stories. The Circle treats its employees like royalty, but it comes with a price; it always comes with a price.

Emma Watson plays Mae Holland, a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed millennial, who has ambitions like most to achieve the perfect job without putting in the time or energy. It’s just her luck that she lands the gig at The Circle without anything more than having a friend who — at the age of twenty-something — happened to be one of the top executives. It’s fiction though, so it’s believable. As Mae learns the ropes, she begins to fall prey to the game being orchestrated by the CEO, Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks), and her life begins to spiral out of her control.

Tom Hanks delivers a fantastic performance, as usual. He lends his star power to a ripe role of obvious duplicitous motives, but I was hoping for a bit more. Maybe a masterful monologue or climactic speech somewhere near the end. It didn’t happen, and Hanks played it a bit too smooth and cool overall, which made the role a bit of a waste despite his larger-than-life presence in just about everything he does.

John Boyega, Karen Gillan and Patton Oswalt play the supporting players in mostly unobtrusive and unremarkable roles. Boyega’s character in the book was much richer and had untapped potential in some of the more critical plot points, but he was kept mostly in the shadows, which was a bit of a head-scratcher. Given his recent rising star with Star Wars, I would have thought they would have added a few more scenes for him.

Director James Ponsoldt (“Smashed,” “The Spectacular Now,” “The End of the Tour”) adapted the source material with author Dave Eggers, and I was disappointed in how they chose to translate it to the screen. They kept much of the story arc and characters intact, and incorporated memorable scenes that may not have necessarily been vital to a successful film, but there was so much potential to improve on the concept. “The Circle” is a film ripe to take the platform of the novel and elevate it to a higher level; unfortunately, they dropped the ball.

There’s always a real jolt of sadness when you see an actor on screen that has recently passed away. It’s particularly hard when it’s someone you have grown up watching. Bill Paxton plays Mae’s father, and in a role that is full of verisimilitude in that he is struggling with multiple sclerosis and is medically fragile; I was even more caught up in my own emotions. 

Social media exposure and privacy issues are truly what’s at the core of the film. Where is the line, and how do we know when we cross it? What are the ramifications for the future, and who is responsible for ethical oversight? Tech companies are delivering products and services at such a profitable and innovative pace that it’s hard to keep up as a consumer or a spectator, which makes this a somewhat haunting predicament.

The book was quite entertaining, and I suppose viewing the film without having read the novel may have been a bit more entertaining than I give it credit for. It was nice to see Paxton one last time, and Hanks is great as usual. Emma Watson didn’t sell her poorly crafted role, however, and that had a big impact on my impression.

Be patient: the good films are coming soon. Summer blockbuster season is upon us, and it starts May 5. Skip “The Circle.” Read the book.