WeCrashed Review: Anne Hathaway Steals The Show In A Sleek, Seductive Tale Of A Startup Gone Wrong

The writing is already on the wall for WeWork, the wildly profitable (but exorbitantly expensive) brainchild of co-founder and CEO Adam Neumann (Jared Leto, once again affecting an outsized accent), when "WeCrashed" throws viewers headfirst into the plot with its very first scene. Based on the Wondery podcast "WeCrashed: The Rise and Fall of WeWork," the Apple TV+ series from creators Lee Eisenberg ("The Office," "Good Boys," "Little America") and Drew Crevello documents the whirlwind years leading up to the make-or-break moment when the co-working space company is set to go public ... or not.

The story kicks off in September of 2018 with the release of an incredibly damaging Wall Street Journal article that forces the board of investors to call an emergency meeting and discuss Adam's leadership abilities and fitfulness in subdued tones. An impromptu vote over whether to keep him on as CEO leads to a frantic search among Adam's assistants to find the man and haul him into the meeting that will ultimately decide his fate and that of his company. When we finally get our first look at him, waking up in bed as housekeepers wait on him hand and foot (with one handing him the most ridiculous wake-up bong you'll ever see), it doesn't take very long to realize exactly what kind of protagonist we're stuck with and why he's ended up in such dire straits. Unironically yelling eye-rolling clichés like "Rise and grind!" as he bounds into his fancy kitchen in sunglasses, shirtless and barefoot, Leto plays up such easygoing bravado for everything it's worth. What kind of person would be able to inspire such fierce, almost cult-like devotion among his employees over something as banal as workspace co-sharing? Well, for better or worse, it's someone like this who's used to getting exactly what he wants at all times.

Once you've seen one of these fact-based shows about Silicon Valley startup companies, it's easy to feel like you've seen them all. Inevitably, audiences may expect to find themselves in familiar territory, encountering yet another rags-to-riches story focused on some driven, capitalistic go-getter who dreams of changing the world and raking in profits through sheer force of will. In order to combat that pervasive sense of been-there and done-that, writers can approach the thrilling, blue-collar, "DIY"-heavy early years of getting a company off the ground any number of ways: fast-paced montages, crisscrossing timelines, and characters fully buying into the us-against-the-world mentality that defines so many of these cautionary tales. With "WeCrashed," the creative team opts for all of these elements, but with one critically important addition to help set it apart from the rest of the pack — by grounding it all in a surprisingly genuine, well-developed, yet unflinchingly toxic love story between Adam and his wife, Rebekah Paltrow (Anne Hathaway).

Adam and Rebekah aren't terribly likable individuals, to say the least, but "WeCrashed" remains well aware of this fact throughout all 8 episodes. A nagging question that may stick out to some potential viewers will likely revolve around why anyone should bother tuning in to a show, week in and week out, about filthy rich and generally ignorant people doing whatever it takes to maintain their privilege and power. Well, the creative team behind this series also understands another crucial fact — that any well-written story that gives us a front-row seat to such a spectacular self-implosion, especially when told with as much wit and self-assuredness as this one is, can provide its own sort of catharsis, as well.

Love in the time of capitalism

After Adam makes his way to corporate HQ in the opening minutes of "WeCrashed" and subsequently storms out of the disastrous meeting, intent on keeping his grasp on his company at all costs, much of this early sequence reverberates throughout the remaining hours of the series. We may not yet fully understand the context behind that newspaper report (although the headline, "Adam Neumann Built WeWork — And May Destroy It," is damning enough) or recognize many of the complex character interactions we only glimpse throughout the scene, but rest assured that all will be revealed when this scene pays off down the line. Until then, we flashback over a decade in the past to discover how Adam initially got his start on the streets of Manhattan as a hustling pitchman (he calls himself a "serial entrepreneur"), hawking absurdities like knee pads for crawling infants and collapsible women's heels which don't always collapse as they should.

It's here where we also get our first proper introduction to Anne Hathaway's Rebekah Paltrow, the character and performance that will undoubtedly go on to alternately beguile and infuriate viewers. (Yes, the real-life Rebekah is, in fact, the cousin of Gwyneth Paltrow and this goes on to play a sneakily integral role in her arc.) From their initial meet-cute, however, she sees right through Adam's shallowness, providing a much-needed fresh perspective of someone who's able and willing to call him out on his nonsense when his ego needs to be kept in check. Of course, this doesn't last as long as we might like. Despite Rebekah rejecting his advances time and again, Adam's impulsive choice to waltz into her workplace and call out her boss for exploiting her labor as a yoga instructor instantly wins her affections. The unavoidable reality that the very foundation of their relationship is based on money, however, ought not to go unnoticed.

Riding the line between genuine affection for each other and a willful buy-in into each other's bulls**t (Rebekah constantly throws around cloying phrases like "manifesting," "positive vibrations," and "negative energy"), the turbulent dynamic between Adam and Rebekah neatly parallels the increasing setbacks and successes in Adam's startup venture. Following the modest progress of his and co-founder Miguel McKelvey's (a steady and effective Kyle Marvin) nascent GreenDesk company and their epiphany of the sprawling WeWork empire, Adam and Rebekah's wedding ultimately fast-tracks all sorts of complications. Impressively, an entire episode is dedicated to exploring Rebekah and a subplot concerning her mounting family troubles, stemming from legal headaches and potential jail time for her rich father Bob (Peter Jacobson) as well as her own insecurity about measuring up to her famous cousin and, most tellingly of all, her own "unicorn" husband.

Far from relegating her to the role of a henpecking wife or even a Lady Macbeth figure (like I assumed going in), "WeCrashed" gives consistent time and space to Rebekah's rich interior life. As undeniably privileged and unrelatable as she becomes, there's a deceptively endearing and even somewhat moving quality to her dream of amounting to something meaningful in life. An aborted attempt at professional acting, philanthropical pursuits of varying success, a tumultuous friendship with businesswoman Elishia Kennedy (America Ferrera, a clear highlight in her brief supporting role), and some stomach-churning instances of petty power-grabs lay in store. All of this succeeds thanks to Hathaway's expressiveness, pitch-perfect intuition, and incredibly convincing range leading the charge ... and usually outshining her much more flamboyant, but oftentimes one-note co-star.

A wry, self-aware, and thoroughly entertaining downfall

While "WeCrashed" does contain plenty of heart and character-centric storytelling, the true entertainment factor of the series remains in seeing this dramatization of the shared workspace company come crashing down just as quickly as it shot to prominence. We seem to be in the midst of a resurgence of these types of stories, between "The Dropout," "Super Pumped," and more, raising the question of what new insights each story can provide for their respective subjects. Thankfully, "WeCrashed" gets out ahead of this potential issue by using Leto's off-putting portrayal of Adam Neumann to try and make sense of the headspace of these Icarus-like figures, would-be movers and shakers who fly way too close to the sun and ultimately pay the price for their hubris ... to a certain extent, at least.

An early scene in the second episode puts this idea into sharp relief, featuring Adam attempting to use his charm and refusal to take "No" for an answer (and a little alcohol, to boot) to sway a prospective landlord named Stavros into giving WeWork a chance. As an Israeli immigrant who grew up on a communal kibbutz, we learn how his inspiration for the boundary-breaking workspace company had its roots in his upbringing and his shared desire with Rebekah to, in their words, "Elevate the world's consciousness." The series isn't unaware of how such a vague and abstract notion comes across (this very slogan, combined with Adam and Rebekah's increasingly reckless attitudes, will go on to cause much more public problems in the years ahead), depicting this all completely straight-faced but with a healthy dose of skepticism. When such tactics don't really move Stavros, Adam pivots towards appealing to his masculinity. Never mind the blatant hypocrisy that Adam himself constantly requires confidence boosts from Rebekah (manifesting in one standout scene with the most uncomfortable hand-job sequence since the pilot of "Breaking Bad"), all while maintaining that he built the company from scratch with nobody else's help. "You know you're not God, right?" Miguel sardonically asks Adam at one point. "You have to admit, I do look a bit like him," comes the reply.

When you factor this in with the many instances of Adam stealing core tenets of WeWork from peers and mentors that he comes across over the years, it's hard to ignore the show's damning indictment of such high-profile individuals. As much fame and fortune as they may amass, no amount of "hustling harder" (to paraphrase another popular slogan at WeWork) can make up for the emptiness and personal shortcomings that build up along the way.

Of the many highlights of the series, the steadily building animosity between Adam and powerful investment partner Cameron Lautner (a stoic and imposing O-T Fagbenle), the quietly effective supporting work from Cricket Brown, Theo Stockman, Steven Boyer, Andrew Burnap, Mallori Johnson, Troy Iwata, Lio Meheil, and Alex Vinh (all as various WeWork employees), and especially the directing from "Thoroughbreds" and "Bad Education" director Cory Finley in the fourth and 5th episodes of the series all standout and come together in perfect harmony, bringing "WeCrashed" to its inescapable conclusion. Even when the final hours of the story get a little too caught up in the weeds of financial particulars and corporate jockeying, the strength and focus of the overall series picks up the slack and guides viewers into a wry, but satisfying ending.

/Film Rating: 8 out of 10

The first three episodes of "WeCrashed" debut on Apple TV+ Friday, March 18, 2022, followed by weekly installments each Friday through April 22, 2022.