This review is part of our coverage of the 2022 SXSW Film Festival.
The Pitch: How far can a startup run on vibes alone? Turns out, it’s however far $47 billion gets you, at least in the smoke-and-mirrors valuations of VC culture. After all, that’s the magic number WeWork CEO Adam Neumann (Jared Leto) and his kooky wife/chief branding officer Rebekah Neumann (nee Paltrow; yes, she’s Gwyneth’s cousin, played by Anne Hathaway) used to fool Wall Street for nearly a decade into thinking they were the next great world-changing startup.
But within a year’s time, WeWork’s value plummeted, the Neumanns left in disgrace — though not without a $2 billion golden parachute — and the buzziest company in America became a punchline.
What led to such a precipitous fall? That’s the question WeCrashed, Apple TV+’s latest push for the startup-grifter boom (after Netflix’s Inventing Anna and Hulu’s The Dropout, among a gaggle of others) strives to answer. Granted, it does so over eight punishingly-long episodes, a frequent symptom of the veritable epidemic (as if we need more of those) of ripped-from-the-headlines miniseries that could easily be two-hour movies.
And yet, showrunners Lee Eisenberg and Drew Crevello’s adaptation of the Wondery podcast of the same name make the most of that length, strapping you into the driver’s seat for a slow, precipitous collapse of the hustle-culture mindset. If nothing else, WeCrashed is a testament to just how long money — or the illusion of it — will insulate narcissists from consequences, and the slow burn of its progression makes the show all the more tantalizingly agonizing.
Rise and Grind: What sets Eisenberg and Crevello’s version apart from others in the same bend is its unsparing look at its central figures. There’s no fragmented timeline like in Inventing Anna, or flirtations with understanding the con artist’s tortured past like in Dropout; WeCrashed is more than content to let us point and laugh at its protagonists, and the clueless lackeys, hypnotized investors, and cash-strapped millennials who attached themselves to Adam’s star.
Directors John Requa and Glenn Ficarra (joined in later episodes by folks like Thoroughbreds and Bad Education’s Cory Finley, who knows how to nail the wry tone of this kind of upper-crust satire) strike a delicate balance between the cold, dramatic prestige of a corporate drama and the farcical extremes of the Neumanns. With its crisp, cold presentation and pinballing tone, it feels a bit like Succession if the Roy family were startup tech bros.