WeCrashed, the Apple TV+ drama about real-life startup WeWork, goes big, goes crazy and gets bitter this week.
As WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann starts trying to expand his co-working company, he decides he’s got to tear down the competition, too. Meanwhile, his wife Rebekah is having her own crisis of confidence — and it may end with her having burned every last bridge she has.
Though cheaply entertaining a few times an episode, this show suffers from an insurmountable problem: It never picked an identity. It has to believe enough in Neumann’s prowess as an entrepreneur to find his tactics interesting, while also tacitly admitting he was wrong and crazy and a huckster.
But you can’t sort of admit your hero is a bad guy, not when you keep charting his rise to success without giving you any kind of window into who he was.
WeCrashed recap: ‘Hustle Harder’
In this week’s episode, titled “Hustle Harder,” Adam (played by Jared Leto) goes to Chase bank to open up a line of credit. He embarrasses the teller when he insists on a $50 million line, instead of the standard $10,000.
“Google me,” he says, in the most loathsome manner possible. They give him $100 million.
While Rebekah (Anne Hathaway) is shopping for her dream house, Adam is checking on the hundreds of WeWork building projects around the world. Each has its own problems, but he just throws money at them. This worries Cameron Lautner (O-T Fagbenle), one of his investment partners, because, well, Adam is terrible at considering his company’s future as anything other than a series of impossible expansions.
Bruce Dunlevie (Anthony Edwards), the head of the investment firm taking an interest in WeWork, tells him not to worry, but it’s gonna take more than that to convince the naysayers. Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son (Eui-sung Kim) seems unimpressed when they tell him about the planned growth.
Don’t feel sorry for Rebekah
Rebekah also has issues. She doesn’t feel remotely respected at the company. When Adam makes the Time magazine 100 most influential people list, she spends hours getting ready for the red carpet, only to get shunted to the side and out of the photographs.
She sees her office getting used as a conference room whenever she’s not around. She wants to make the company vegan, if only to seem to have some kind of influence on major events. And she starts firing employees who rub her the wrong way.
Elishia Kennedy (America Ferrera), her friend who accepted Adam’s job offer, sees that Rebekah’s out of sorts, not least because their friendship (one of the only things in her life that felt hers) became a job.
Meanwhile, Adam’s partner Miguel (Kyle Marvin) is sweating bullets. He realizes that because Masayoshi gave the company $4.4 billion, he expects $33 trillion as a return for his investment. Miguel doesn’t see that as even remotely possible.
When Masayoshi summons Miguel and Adam to Tokyo to talk returns, Miguel thinks it’s because they’re in trouble. Turns out Masa has some potentially devastating advice: Go crazier. Adam starts targeting his competition to destroy them.
He’s building something
When I started reviewing WeCrashed a few weeks back, I hadn’t watched Inventing Anna, Netflix’s Shonda Rhymes-produced series about Anna Delvey, another young scam artist who got away with blowing millions of investment bankers’ money to pay for her expensive and nonsensical dream life.
Having now seen it, the combined effect of these two terrible TV shows is that the culture’s fixation on scammers is a closed feedback loop. (Martin Shkreli plays a side character in Inventing Anna; Delvey’s lawyer operates out of a WeWork; Anthony Edwards is in both series as an investment banker).
There was an interesting detail about Delvey in among the PR for the Netflix show. The company paid $320,000 for the rights to Delvey’s story, most of which funneled into her legal defense. In other words, Netflix paid for her to fight the crimes she was being accused of, which the streamer was making a show about.
Delvey — who conned her way through bad checks and dead credit cards, stealing from rich acquaintances and staying in the world’s nicest hotels — was given another fat payday for the rights to say she was actually secretly a nice person. Except, of course, she isn’t. She’s a monster who happened to do a good thing: Take bankers for all they’re worth on a whim. Kind of makes me wonder if Neumann got paid for his story…
Fraud for the win
The economy that takes the stories of the very dimmest rich people falling for the schemes of slightly smarter enterprising nobodies feels like the final return on the investments paid to frauds.
The beginning of the con is when someone like former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes (who also got her own show, The Dropout, on Hulu), Neumann or Delvey starts stealing money for some nebulous neo-capitalist scheme with no realistic goal in mind.
The ending is when Hollywood gets to sell the story to the American public as a window into high society. (Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest shows up as himself in this week’s episode of WeCrashed; Run-DMC appeared in an earlier episode). This gives future scammers some sense of why the shows’ subjects tried their cons in the first place.
Despite being pitched, however tepidly, as cautionary tales, these are mostly shows about getting a peek into the lives that rich people live. Wouldn’t it be something … to get a peek for yourself? Just look what you can do when you decide you’re a millionaire.
You can fire whoever you want, ruin lives, get absurd loans and fly on private jets. Then, you can have a mini-series made where Oscar winners play you. The show surely won’t condemn you because there are still a few episodes left. (However, it will condemn your petty wife, week after week.)
WeCrashed proves fleetingly engaging but leaves a terrible taste in one’s mouth.
Watch WeCrashed on Apple TV+
New episodes of WeCrashed arrive each Friday on Apple TV+.
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.