For some reason, Apple TV+ paid actual money for WeCrashed, the deeply inessential story of WeWork founder Adam Neumann and his wife Rebekah.
The tale’s already been told as a documentary, a podcast and a series of investigative pieces for various publications. But as we all know, the idea isn’t totally wrung dry until a couple of Oscar winners have their say.
So here’s Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway as the Neumanns in a terrible Apple TV+ mini-series directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa. Maybe now we can tell another story.
WeCrashed recap: First 3 episodes
Adam Neumann (played by Jared Leto) was already over the hill by the standards of his classmates when he started taking business classes at Baruch College. He was trying to become an entrepreneur, selling patents for baby clothes and women’s shoes. He met a fellow down-on-his-luck student, burgeoning architect Miguel McKelvey (Kyle Marvin), who happens to have free time and a spirit ripe for capturing.
Adam convinces him to go in on an idea — a space for people to work in that doesn’t feel like a sterile office building. They call it Greenspace. They build it and sell it to their biggest investor for a few hundred thousand dollars.
Adam is happy with the money but he wants more. He’ll never be satisfied, in fact. Case in point: the story of how he meets Gwenyth Paltrow’s jealous cousin, Rebekah (Anne Hathaway).
He sees her at a party and fixates on her: finding her yoga class, insisting she go on a date with him, and then barging into her boss’s office to demand fair working conditions as an alternative to actually wooing her or being tolerable. Because no one ever “believed in her” in this way, Rebekah immediately starts sleeping with him. They’re married shortly after.
Born to fail
During all this, Adam decides once more to try his hand at his idea of modern co-working spaces and just keeps tripping upward. He cons his landlord into signing a better lease deal. He uses his wife’s dowry to finance renovations, and is there to catch her when her acting career fails.
Every single time Miguel seems like he’s had it and wants out, Adam sweet-talks him into rejoining the company. One talk in front of investment bankers, and he’s fending off offers from millionaires.
The way I’m describing WeCrashed sounds pretty grim, but the upbeat music and plucky comedic beats say otherwise. This is an inspirational story. Except, of course, it’s not.
I’ll be over there making our dream come true
The story of WeWork is the story of the ludicrous insolvency and instability of the world financial market. It may look like the story of an upstart entrepreneur and his wife throwing old money for a loop, but that’s not an accurate construction. It’s really the story of how easily seduced, feckless, irresponsible and stupid venture capitalists are.
At every turn, the unseasoned Neumann would neg his potential investors — drink tequila at meetings, dress like a model, lie about other investors, and just generally behave and spend irresponsibly. And yet they would all be so impressed by this they’d cut him bigger and bigger checks.
Shockingly, the company tanked. And Neumann, despite having walked off with a staggering amount of money, is currently lying to any journalist who will talk to him about how he’s secretly fixing the Israel-Palestine conflict and how he’s great friends with Mohammed bin Salman. He was and remains a con artist, in other words.
Worshiping a con artist
The show WeCrashed does not believe this. Its creators treat his journey similarly to the way David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin did Mark Zuckerberg’s in The Social Network — without the lingering sense of paranoia, malice and dread.
Even they understood that Zuckerberg was a cretin who would sell his best friend out to prove a point. Drew Crevello, Lee Eisenberg and the rest of the WeCrashed writers have little trouble presenting Neumann’s underhandedness. But they also play inspirational music at every turn to highlight his ingenuity.
For a two-hour movie, you can play devil’s advocate a few times (while creating a world where everyone is a scoundrel). But you can’t make an eight-episode TV series about someone’s growth if you don’t take at face value that it’s worth hearing about and exploring. And why would you do that if you don’t think it’s interesting? So interesting that you’d risk your credibility by working with an actor with an unsavory reputation?
WeCrashed constantly makes heart-warming gestures to show Adam’s relationship with Rebekah and Miguel — how he’s the one who believes in them, and no one else does.
The show constantly makes fun of Rebekah, but still explores her family trauma intimately and asks us to care about all of it. Like when her one boyfriend breaks up with her or her father (Peter Jacobson) goes to jail for fraud. (The sad music cue during her father’s trial is pornographic — the guy stole money from cancer patients).
But Adam? He gets away with everything because the show can’t turn him into the charlatan he truly is or you might risk turning it off. He has to serve a purpose. The real Adam Neumann didn’t. By all accounts, he was just a charming fraud. The world has dozens of them. But this show’s only about one of them and he’s just not interesting, least of all when played by dead-eyed Jared Leto.
And the Oscar goes to …
I genuinely don’t know what happened to Jared Leto. He was a promising enough pretty young actor in movies he doesn’t remember like Urban Legend or Panic Room, but then he became a rock star. His emo band 30 Seconds to Mars became such a phenomenon that he was able to possibly (?) start his own cult staffed by fans of his awful music.
Something about this seems to have unhinged him. He was a menace on the set of the deeply terrible Suicide Squad and he hasn’t given a recognizably human performance in years.
Lately, he’s been feted for his role as Paolo Gucci in House of Gucci, a performance that’s not so much acting as it is petulant melted swanning; a dare for his director to discipline him. In a movie filled with legendary hams all swinging for the fences, he somehow came off the very worst.
In WeCrashed, he’s simply dreadful. He made one character choice (and one facial expression) and he applies them half-assedly to every situation. Whether he’s sleeping with his wife, conducting a business deal, losing billions, being kicked out of his own company, or selling baby clothes, he’s always got the same look of studied aloofness on his face.
Even more slappable than the real thing
I have, unfortunately, seen footage of the real Adam Neumann and, yes, he was slappable, too — but not like this. Leto looks like the angel of death, an American Eagle mannequin gifted human organs by a monkey’s paw wish. He’s got weird, unflattering makeup on the whole time to hide the fact that he’s playing a character 20 years his junior, and he always come across not like a vivacious Israeli snake-oil salesmen but a stoned Italian android in need of new batteries.
I’m not a venture capitalist, so I don’t know what it’s like to flush billions down the toilet because someone charmed me at a business meeting by forgetting their shoes. But I do know that if Leto’s corpsey facsimile of human behavior creeped up to me, I’d brandish a cross, not empty my wallet.
That the show around this “performance” is dreadfully dull makes things worse. There’s nowhere else to look. The directing team assembled for WeCrashed isn’t untalented, but its members are also not the kind of people you hire for arch style or stunning visuals. So the show looks as blandly appealing as one of WeWork’s offices.
The other actors are all fine — except Hathaway, who I usually like. (She can’t and so doesn’t bother keeping the low voice she invents for Rebekah in the opening episode.)
There’s just no fun to be had here. Millions of dollars wasted on the story of billions of dollars wasted. How disgustingly fitting.
Watch WeCrashed on Apple TV+
WeCrashed premieres March 18 on Apple TV+. New episodes arrive each Friday.
Watch on: Apple TV+
Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the author of Cinemaphagy: On the Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper, the director of 25 feature films, and the director and editor of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.