Although I knew absolutely nothing about the subject matter before diving into this series, WeCrashed, chronicling the rise and fall of startup company WeWork, does a spectacular job getting the viewer caught up on the drama. At the center of it all is Israeli creator (and self-proclaimed “serial entrepreneur”) Adam Neumann, played by Jared Leto. Again, Leto is doing a wonky accent (see: last year’s House of Gucci), but he has a way of smooth-talking finesse that he injects to embody Adam’s character. Anne Hathaway portrays his wealthy wife, Rebekah (and Gwyneth Paltrow cousin), with other supporting players including co-founder of WeWork, Miguel (Kyle Marvin), and Elishia (America Ferrera), a young entrepreneur who befriends Rebekah. What could go wrong at WeWork, one of the fastest growing startups in history?
Emulating the time-jumping mechanism of many a true story adaptation, WeCrashed alternates between 2019 and past timelines in each episode. This tactic ranges wildly in effectiveness, with some material feeling like mere unnecessarily padded fluff. In 2019, the release of a bombshell New York Times article could spell doom for the burgeoning company that was on the precipice of going public. Adam, who wakes up to an instant bong-hit from his housekeeper, and Rebekah, insisting that “fear is a choice,” appear to be living a life of extravagance. Their limo pulls up to WeWork Headquarters without a care in the world. Millions of dollars lost daily, however, is no laughing matter…
A whole decade prior, Adam hops from invention to invention, trying his hand at everything from kneepads for babies to collapsible heels for women that will “change the fashion industry!” But there is one big problem: nothing seems to stick. When one person’s advice involves “bottling his confidence,” it plants the first seeds of an idea that leads into the earliest iteration of WeWork. Adam’s concept for a shared living space could be a billion-dollar idea! With the support of American Apparel store designer Miguel, and Rebekah, a vegan yoga instructor he meets and aggressively pursues at a party, his little nest egg may hatch into a golden goose. The formation of a community environment where “work and life become one and the same” entices many prospectives.
Where is an idea without investors? This is when things start to get tricky. In order to even get their foot in any doors, Adam has to smooth-talk his way into a business plan. He sells the package as an experience to build one’s dreams, whilst Miguel concocts the monetary specifics. By the end of the first episode, WeWork has a name (concocted while high on weed!), a fifteen million dollar investment, and a building! There is only a mere hint of the darker direction the show will take from here in subsequent episodes. From the second on, a weird unicorn-fueled opening sequence acts as the opener for WeCrashed.
While the narrative is entertaining for sure, it never really soars until an explosive third episode, set at a 2012 “Summer Camp,” which was revealed in the first teaser trailer. The episode opens following one intern as she falls into a partying lifestyle set to MGMT’s “Time to Pretend,” and remains exciting and propulsive from start to finish. Rebekah and her troubling words (“women have to support men!”) get her into hot water right at the jump. The hour is spent with Rebekah trying to cover her tracks, as WeWork holds one of its biggest events ever.
I am not too sure that Jared Leto really nails an Israeli accent, or that Anne Hathaway looks or functions anything like the real Rebekah Neumann. This aspect really isn’t all that important in the grand scheme of things, but I did have to wonder how close to reality the script steers. I also have more than a few issues with the pacing. Occasionally, we are gifted with pops of color thanks to the lavish lifestyle (and Anne Hathaway at a costume party dressed as a Navi!) and bursts of comedy, like when Rebekah botches an acting performance. The material is taken a little too seriously though, opting for a straightforward and almost clinical examination of this tale, as opposed to the recent Hulu series Pam & Tommy, which opts for a lightness to its tragicomic themes.
Judging by the first four episodes, WeCrashed still has some ways to go before living up to its intriguing premise. One of the middle ones mostly centers on Rebekah, and feels simply inserted to pad out the runtime. At the end of the day, I feel like WeCrashed would have made a potentially excellent movie, yet there doesn’t appear to be quite enough material to stay exciting for eight hours. That said, once I have access to those remaining four episodes, I will still finish it out of curiosity, and the need to see this story conclude.
WeCrashed debuts at the SXSW Film Festival, and comes to Apple TV+ on Friday, March 18th.