We've been eagerly anticipating the release of The Circle, the Tom Hanks/Emma Watson film adaptation of Dave Eggers' dark Silicon Valley tale. But today we got word of a bad sign for the flick, as representatives for the studio say that critics will not get a look at the movie before it's released to paying customers — at least, not the critics who work in the Bay Area.
If the film, which was reportedly shot starting in September of 2015, follows Eggers' well-received 2013 novel, it tells the tale of Mae Holland (Watson), a recent college graduate who lands a job at a tech monopoly that's swallowed the likes of Facebook and Google and juuuust might be terrible and evil and all that. Other cast members include Patton Oswalt and John Boyega, and contains one of the last performances of the late, great Bill Paxton. The full trailer for the film dropped in February, with a reminder that the release date is April 28.
But don't expect a critical review, at least not a local one, to help you decide if you want to drop your Hamilton and change on the film. A rep with Allied Integrated Marketing, the PR agency responsible for arranging Bay Area advance and press viewings of movies, tells SFist that there are no plans to screen the film for the media.
Savvy movie goers know that such a decision is rarely a good sign for a film. As noted by The Bonus View after Independence Day: Resurgence (a legit stinker, I can say from bitter experience) denied itself to critics, "withholding a film from critics is considered a bad sign that the studio has lost faith in the movie and expects overwhelmingly poor reviews."
"Preventing those reviews from being published before release date is a desperate attempt to mitigate negative buzz," they write, "so that audiences won’t be scared off from seeing it."
Or, as TV Tropes puts it, "This is almost always a big warning sign about the quality of the movie," one that means "The review compilation sites also have very few reviews and can't compute a review score from it." As of publication time, for example, the Rotten Tomatoes page for The Circle reads that a Tomatometer score is not available. As critics often see films weeks (if not more) before they are released, this is a very bad sign, indeed.
The Circle's producers should know that at least one person in San Francisco will still go see their film, however: SFist's sole chronicler of The Circle (until today) and Emma Watson superfan Caleb Pershan.
When reached for comment on the breaking screening news, Pershan seemed resigned but ultimately upbeat. Acknowledging that Watson "was terrible in Beauty and the Beast, which was terrible," he says that nevertheless, "I'd watch Emma Watson take a dump."
"I'll definitely go see The Circle," Pershan said, "and the results could be similar."