About halfway through the eight episodes of Apple TV+’s WeCrashed, an investor named Cameron (OT Fagbenle) shares with his Benchmark Capital colleague Bruce (Anthony Edwards) his skepticism about WeWork’s spend-heavy business model. “We’ve seen this movie before, haven’t we?” Cameron points out. “So what’s different this time?”
Bruce is firm in his answer, insisting it’s Adam (Jared Leto), the company’s staggeringly ambitious and uniquely magnetic cofounder, who makes all the difference. But it’s Cameron’s words that’ll prove more prescient. We have seen this story before, detailed in actual news stories about Neumann or echoed in other recent miniseries of corporate shadiness and grift. WeCrashed makes for a reasonably entertaining reenactment by relishing in the can-you-believe-this-crap absurdity of Neumann’s worst impulses, but has little to add to the beats we already know by heart.
The bottom line
Amusing but ultimately inessential.
Created by Drew Crevello and Lee Eisenberg, with episodes directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (Crazy, Stupid, Love), Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini (American Splendor, Things Heard & Seen) and more, WeCrashed follows a familiar rise-fall formula, tracing Neumann’s journey from a flailing “serial entrepreneur” hawking baby clothes and collapsible high heels to the world-famous CEO of a company theoretically worth $47 billion, to his swift decline into notoriety after a disastrous IPO filing exposed the worst excesses of WeWork’s culture, and of Adam himself.
Somewhat unusually, it’s also a love story. At every step of the way, standing just off to the side, is Rebekah (Anne Hathaway) – sometimes eagerly amplifying his shine, sometimes resentfully standing in his shadow.
Adam is a gifted bullshitter on his own, blessed with bulletproof confidence, endless persistence and a knack for convincing everyone else to do the actual hard work. “Every great business story has an all-nighter,” he gleefully declares to cofounder Miguel McKelvey (Kyle Marvin) early in their partnership, before heading home to bed and leaving Miguel to put together the 17-page pitch deck overnight. Leto’s relentless energy makes it plain to see how Adam could wear down even those who fancied themselves smart enough to know better, while his dark contact lenses have the eerie (and possibly unintentional) effect of making Adam look soulless.
But as told in WeCrashed, Adam and Rebekah’s relationship is the foundation on which both the best and the worst – mostly the worst – of WeWork is built. It’s Rebekah who first encourages Adam to chase his passion for chasing the world, who hand-jobs his self-esteem back to full health when he experiences a rare moment of insecurity, who convinces him it’s time for WeWork to expand into private schooling with WeGrow .
Hathaway resists the temptation to turn Rebekah into an exaggerated caricature of an entitled woo-woo type, which ultimately only makes Rebekah funnier: The only thing more ridiculous than Rebekah spouting a line like “I am the soul of the company” is Rebekah moving herself almost to tears with her own profundity as she says it.
Adam and Rebekah tend to indulge each other’s most ridiculous impulses, and as WeWork balloons in value and reputation, the pair yes-and each other into a permanent galaxy brain state. Sober-minded outsiders might point out their business is in trouble, but to them that’s not the point: “WeWork is not a business, it’s a feelingthey insisted.
WeCrashed plays the pair’s inanities completely straight without winking or nudging, leaving us in the audience to blink or howl or shake our heads in disbelief when, for example, they talk themselves into throwing out the mandatory S-1 paperwork prepared by their lawyers and replacing it with what Cameron scathingly refers to as “a children’s book.” Obnoxious as both Rebekah and Adam come across, it’s easy to see what drew them to each other. In their own way, they’re a perfect match.
WeCrashed, which is based on the podcast by Wondery, is rather less successful at demonstrating what drew everyone else to the company, or what kept them around as more and more red flags started to pop up. For example: That Adam has a cult-like command over his workforce is clear from scenes of him leading chants at weekly booze-fueled “Thank God It’s Monday” meetings. But why these employees are so committed to a company that they explicitly describe as “a really bad place to work, especially if you’re a woman” is barely explored, beyond some vague nods towards the shiny, toxic hustle culture of the early- to-mid-2010s that WeWork (and Adam) so perfectly exemplified.
Nor is it clear for most of the series how Adam got away as long as he did with fooling ostensibly experienced businessmen like Bruce. For that matter, it’s not clear for most of the series even what he was getting away with, since WeCrashed doesn’t get around to explaining the most damning details of Adam’s shady business practices – such as his habit of buying buildings to lease back to his own company – until very late.
And like so many ripped-from-the-headlines dramas, WeCrashed struggles when it comes time to deliver some grander takeaway after all the time it’s spent lingering over the details of recent history. In the wreckage of WeWork’s failed IPO, Cameron scolds the company’s young employees for deluding themselves into buying Adam’s high-minded nonsense about “elevating the world’s consciousness” by renting desks — which feels more than a bit rich when it was Cameron’s venture capitalist colleagues who help inflate WeWork’s reputation to such dangerous proportions in the first place.
Perhaps it’s just that there’s not much else to say, at least from the bizarro-romance version of the story that WeCrashed is telling. The true saga of Adam Neumann and WeWork came to an unsatisfying end in 2019, with Adam (uh, spoilers for real life?) losing his company but still walking away with more money than most of us will see in our lifetimes. Even fiction can only go so far to correct a reality as bewildering as that.