Of all the developments in the Web 2.0 era, I never expected one of them would be nostalgia for the cheesy paranoia of The Net. Adapting the Dave Eggers novel, director James Ponsoldt tells the tale of Mae Holland (Emma Watson), a new employee at the titular pervasive social media company, who is gradually pulled into the vision of its charismatic CEO (Tom Hanks) for a one-stop-for-all-your-life-needs online account. “Gradually” is the operative word, as the pacing creates a tone that’s less slow-build menace than sleepy—which might have more acceptable had there been any sense of genuine character study in Watson’s eager naif, rather than cautionary tale that’s cautioning us about things everybody is already plenty concerned about. Ponsoldt hits a few easy targets in the company’s “voluntary” corporate culture and the alternately banal/bitchy comment bubbles that surround Watson as she becomes an online celebrity. It’s simply too unfocused in its examination of data-mining and social-media self-exposure to provide any insight, and too self-serious to even consider allowing us the simple pleasures of a big, dangerous corporate conspiracy thriller.
Director: James Ponsoldt
Producer: Gary Goetzman, Anthony Bregman, James Ponsoldt, Stefanie Azpiazu, Ron Schmidt, Sally Willcox, Steven Shareshian, Evan Hayes, Peter Cron, Marc Shmuger, Federica Sainte-Rose and Russell Levine
Cast: Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, John Boyega, Karen Gillan, Ellar Coltrane, Patton Oswalt, Glenne Headly and Bill Paxton