‘WeCrashed,’ Starring Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway, Drags Out the WeWork ‘Love Story’ to Confusing Ends: TV Review

As TV expands beyond its traditional borders and attracts talent that would otherwise typically stick to films, the troubling trend of people describing their shows as “a [x]-hour movie” refuses to die. It’s never quite clear what they mean, but for whatever reason, this inherent snobbery about the medium of television persists from some of the most prominent people making it. So it’s to their credit that, at this point, the creators of “WeCrashed” (i.e. Lee Eisenberg and Drew Crevello) haven’t described their limited series – featuring movie stars Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway, no less – as an eight-hour film. And yet, that’s exactly what the show ends up resembling most as its strong start meanders to its repetitive, inevitable end.

“WeCrashed” – which premiered March 12 at SXSW before its March 18 debut on Apple TV Plus – delves into the bizarre, true story of “serial entrepreneur” Adam Neumann (Leto) leveraging his passion and ambition into the multi-billion dollar enterprise of WeWork, spending money with abandon, and subsequently losing hold of his own company once investors grew wise to his extravagant bluffs. Despite the show’s title (borrowed from the Wondery podcast on which it’s based), it’d be a stretch to say Neumann himself crashed all that hard, given that he currently retains hundreds of millions of dollars worth of WeWork shares and a net worth of billions. Still, Neumann’s staggering rise and seemingly sudden fall makes a dramatic trajectory for a series, not to mention gives its able actors the irresistible task of embodying hyperbolic characters trapped on a rollercoaster of their own making.

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The bigger than life story of WeWork has so many different threads that the show could have followed, but it makes the deliberate choice to center the “love story” between Adam and his enigmatic wife, Rebekah (Hathaway). As “WeCrashed” depicts it, they believed themselves not only capable of “saving the world,” but also felt duty-bound to make everyone else understand why they must. Leto and Hathaway are extremely convincing in their portrayal of Adam and Rebekah’s righteous tunnel vision, and especially funny when playing their obliviousness completely straight. (They are, it must be said, much less convincing in the roles of an Israeli man and American Jewish woman, impressive accent work notwithstanding.) No matter how lavish Adam’s business practices get, or how confused Rebekah’s spirituality becomes, their mutually committed relationship is the show’s one true constant. Well, that and Katy Perry’s “Roar,” which is omnipresent enough in “WeCrashed” that it becomes funnier with every replay.

In order to sell the vision of WeWork that persuaded so many investors to bet on Adam, and convinced Adam and Rebekah of their inflated worth to the world, “WeCrashed” is smart to give it to us straight. And with directors John Requa and Glenn Ficarra at the helm, not to mention a handsome budget to recreate Adam’s love of excess, the series is undeniably slick. Where it falters, then, is how much it hammers the same dynamics over and over again, failing to justify its eight-hour run time as it defaults to the repetitive loops of Adam converting skeptics, Rebekah finding her place in his kingdom, and their attempts to reign supreme over it all. Even the “crash” itself takes seven episodes to reach, somehow.

There are attempts along the way to explain their evolutions into the narcissists who would end up squandering billions. Adam’s obsession with forging community wherever he goes is glancingly attributed to his childhood growing up on a kibbutz, while Rebekah’s struggle to develop her own voice gets explored in an early episode of flashbacks, as well as every time someone mentions her much more famous cousin, Gwyneth Paltrow. (This is, incredibly, true.) Adam and Rebekah were clearly magnetic enough figures to attract attention from their employees, investors, and the media alike. But in trying to explore their psyches and explain their actions, “WeCrashed” falls short, hitting the same notes too many times to make all eight hours worthwhile.

Even further, no matter how good Leto and Hathaway are in their roles, choosing to focus on Adam and Rebekah limits the series’ potential to truly impart how much their descent impacted those surrounding them. For a while, the closest “WeCrashed” has to a voice of reason is Miguel (Kyle Marvin), Adam’s co-founder who’s too timid to push back on Adam’s flights of fancy no matter how dangerous they prove to their company. That baton is next taken up by Elishia Kennedy, Rebekah’s friend turned WeWork business partner portrayed with grounded charm by America Ferrera. Eventually, O-T Fagbenle, of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” breaks in with curt disdain as Cameron Lautner, a banking partner who refuses to grant Adam the leeway demonstrated by Cameron’s more malleable coworkers (including one played by Anthony Edwards in an eerie echo of his “Inventing Anna” character). For the most part, though, “WeCrashed” seems content to follow Adam and Rebekah along their merry way to the peak of the business world and back down again, with minimal input from those who get truly screwed as a result.

In this respect, it’s hard not to compare “WeCrashed” to another recent eight-episode limited series about a charismatic startup CEO rising with alarming speed before falling to pieces in front of the entire world. As Hulu’s “The Dropout” details how Elizabeth Holmes (played by Amanda Seyfried) became both a billionaire and one of the tech world’s most notorious cautionary tales, it takes pains in each episode to show the damage she caused to people in the process. Her employees aren’t incidental characters, but key components of the show; her peers aren’t side notes to her success, but entire people with lives that suffer crushing blows thanks to their boss’ hubris. “WeCrashed” makes overtures towards including WeWork employees whose faith in Adam went unrewarded, such as early manager Lesley (Antoinette Crowe-Legacy), acolyte Jacob (Theo Stockman), and wide-eyed recruit Chloe (Cricket Brown). But they rarely get much more depth than those descriptors until it’s too late. There’s a version of the show that could, and maybe should, have found a cannier balance between the Adam and Rebekah saga and the downward spiral of those orbiting them — and for a glorious minute, there is.

The third episode (“Summer Camp”) opens with Chloe’s first day at WeWork, complete with a welcome package of a brand new laptop and celebratory mimosa, before fast forwarding through a dizzying montage of her first few months as an employee. Directed by Requa and Ficarra, and edited by Debra Beth Weinfeld, this sequence feels just as intoxicating, overwhelming, and disorienting as the experience it’s depicting. Eventually, Chloe’s visceral excitement at working at a place fueled by midday shots, coworker hookups, and a “thank God it’s Monday” ethos curdles into dead-eyed burnout. It’s devastating, and hard not to feel the exhaustion along with her — which, when the episode eventually crescendos into an all-out revolt against Rebekah’s insistence that WeWork is a “family,” proves indispensable. The montage is fast by design, but also exactly the kind of effective diversion a TV series can take given the kind of time “WeCrashed” has to tell its multi-faceted story. It also, unfortunately, proves to be the exception rather than the rule.

In these precious few minutes, “WeCrashed” becomes more than a story of people obsessing over money and status — a story that, given the callous disregard and eventual safety of those involved, is inherently unappealing without more tempering than this series attempts. In its brief spotlight of an ordinary person getting swept up in the WeWork sinister promise of turning the office into a home, “WeCrashed” finds something more interesting to say than the show’s otherwise dominant storyline that TV’s already shown a thousand times before: “Isn’t it wild how these rich people got so rich?” Yes, granted. But why should we care? “WeCrashed,” despite its glossy trappings and occasional snap, never really finds the answer.

“WeCrashed” premieres its first three episodes Friday, March 18 on Apple TV Plus.

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