WeCrashed review: Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway bring special alchemy to unlikely love story

While feeling overlong and over-literal, this new Apple TV+ series knows its audience is likely to have some sympathy for the hoop dream of hustle culture

Nick Hilton
Monday 21 March 2022 15:08 GMT
WeCrashed trailer

The title sequence of Apple TV+’s new blockbuster mini-series, WeCrashed, depicts a forlorn unicorn trampling through the bustling rooms of a co-working space. If the significance of this imagery is lost on you, then so too will most of this programme, which requires a degree of LinkedIn literacy (and tolerance thereof) to meet head on. The unicorn – an irritating business term for a start-up with a valuation of greater than $1bn – is WeWork, the office space company, with beer on-tap and ping pong, that soared to a $47bn valuation in just a few years and then, as the title of the show somewhat spoils, came crashing down.

WeWork’s founder and CEO was Adam Neumann, an Israeli former Naval officer, played here with mesmeric zealotry by Jared Leto. Leto portrays Neumann from his late twenties through to the present day – a feat of ageless vampirism that the 50-year-old Leto is supremely equipped for. Neumann (who describes himself repeatedly as a “serial entrepreneur”, with such intensity that you wonder what other things he might have done serially…) has a vision for WeWork, and unlike so many entrepreneurial success stories, less of a work ethic and more of a Messiah complex. “You know you’re not God?” his co-founder Miguel McKelvey (Kyle Marvin) tells him. “You have to admit, I do look a bit like him,” Adam replies.

But, in the ego stakes, he’s matched pound-for-pound by his wife, Rebekah, an actor, former yoga teacher and first cousin of Gwyneth Paltrow, whose brittle perfectionism is brought to life, with relish, by Anne Hathaway. When Leto and Hathaway are on-screen together (and that’s much of the show, whose strapline is “A Love Story Worth $47bn”) there is that special alchemy that shows like Big Little Lies and True Detective achieve: Oscar-winning movie stars who can transcend the contraction of their format. Hathaway, particularly, has such a luminous star quality that I’m sure I’d be transfixed just seeing her read the phonebook on the screen of my Apple Watch.

And star power is something that governs this New Age couple. “You’re a supernova,” is Rebekah’s tiger mom refrain, which she wheels out both when Adam is acquiring his first properties, and when he’s being ousted as CEO. For all Adam’s cult-leader charisma, she’s the one pulling the strings – or pulling other things, as she fires him up for a new investment by wanking him off in an abandoned warehouse. At their wedding she refers to the two of them as “cosmic voyagers”; a ceremony that has only come about after she physically contorts him into a position to propose to her. “I manifested you,” she tells him afterwards.

Like many of the tech start-up dramas that have followed David Fincher’s The Social Network, WeCrashed is overlong and over-literal. The problem is, perhaps, that at the same time as being a parable about the pitfalls of profligacy (“At some point in life you have to ask yourself: how much is enough?” an investor asks Neumann at one point, which is, as Shakespeare would say, the rub) the creators of WeCrashed know that its audience is likely to have some sympathy for the hoop dream of hustle culture. Why else would you watch an eight-part series that gives pitch decks and floor plans a gravitas normally afforded to great works of art? Despite the fact that Neumann is depicted as half-Tommy Wiseau from The Room, and half-Viktor Navorski from The Terminal (he even says “bite to eat”, which will have Terminal fans cheering), WeCrashed wears its satire very lightly.

Ultimately, the story of the decline and (partial) fall of WeWork is not that interesting. It doesn’t have the tension of the founders’ fallout at Facebook or the sheer fireworks of self-combustion at Theranos. So the heart of WeCrashed becomes, instead, this oddly sympathetic love story – off-putting personality types attract, you might say – between Adam and Rebekah. For all the talk of unicorns and rental leases and IPOs, the real drama is a human one. Neumann’s oft-repeated motto for WeWork was “It’s not what you can see, but who can see you”. To bastardise its own words, WeCrashed isn’t about what you are seeing, but who you are seeing do it.

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