The two Oscar winners are highly entertaining, but their presence pulls attention better spent elsewhere in the Apple TV+ limited series.
SXSW can’t get enough of Adam Neumann. Just last year, during the festival’s virtual edition, Jed Rothstein’s documentary feature, “WeWork: Or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn” centered on the co-working company’s co-founder. Now, for SXSW’s in-person return, he’s back — albeit being played by Jared Leto in the Apple TV+ scripted series, “WeCrashed.”
Expanding the runtime from 104 minutes to eight hours and adding a love story to the office drama, Drew Crevello and Lee Eisenberg’s low-key satire of WeWork’s rise and fall doesn’t suffer all the same flaws as its unscripted predecessor. Leto ably captures Neumann’s magnetism, which was oft-discussed yet never realized in the doc. The series’ structure is sound, doing just enough to support yet another in media res opening. The dark comedy clicks, the design is polished, and pacing smooth, but like the documentary (now streaming on Hulu), “WeCrashed” is overtaken by its eccentric stars; it’s so in service to Adam and Rebekah Neumann’s journey, as well as the Oscar-winning movie stars playing them, that it loses its edge, its perspective, and its stakes. What’s left is a handsome production that’s easy to watch, but one without enough consequence to merit the time.
As promised by the tagline — “a love story worth $47 billion” — “WeCrashed” follows the arc of Adam and Rebekah’s relationship, beginning when they were just two crazy kids trying to make a life in the Big Apple. Adam’s early business ideas (including baby clothes with built-in knee pads and collapsible high-heeled shoes) can’t get off the ground. Rebekah (Anne Hathaway) works as a yoga instructor earning one dollar per student and handing all her tips over to her manager. One night, Adam gets the brilliant (read: illegal) idea to raise funding for his various endeavors via a rooftop party, and it’s there the two shall meet.
Peter Kramer / Apple TV+
He’s smitten, she’s not; he hunts down her private information, she forgets he exists; he shows up at her yoga class, she’s offended… until he tells off her boss, and she jumps his bones. It’s a love story as old as time: two entrepreneurial spirits drawn together by ambition. Or — and the show never makes room for this possibility — he knows she’s a Paltrow (Gwyneth’s name is dropped oftenand it’s always funny), knows she has family money ($1 per student isn’t paying for her posh Manhattan apartment), and knows he can spend that money to make his dreams come true.
Soon enough, he’s doing just that: cashing in his father-in-law’s $1 million wedding gift to pay for renovations of a shared office space. A classmate (who Adam doesn’t remember) helped him land a cheap lease, then does all the work formulating a business plan for their landlord, all while Adam… sleeps. This man, of course, is Miguel McKelvey (Kyle Marvin), the soon-to-be co-founder of WeWork, and the montage of Miguel’s all-nighter — mocking up the pitch, getting coffee, spilling the coffee onto the pitch, adding Red Bull to his new coffee so he has enough energy to recreate the pitch — is the first of many visually fluid and very funny medleys that play out over all eight episodes. Most are used to juxtapose glaring disparities like this one — Miguel doing all the work, Adam taking all the credit — and there are plenty more incongruities ahead.
“WeCrashed” covers most of the major events laid out in previous coverage of WeWork’s bizarre business practices. Episode 3 takes place at the first “Summer of We,” a private company retreat held at an actual summer camp stocked with booze, music, and unchecked machismo. Episode 4 sees Adam courting Masayoshi Son, the head of SoftBank, for a $4.4 billion investment. Other entries cover Rebekah’s short-lived go at acting, her long-standing family issues (no, not Cousin Gwyney), and her steady absorption of roles at WeWork.
Despite lasting scars from “Suicide Squad,” “The Little Things” and various other exaggerated turns, I must admit: Leto settles smoothly into Neumann’s persona. The Israeli accent, the lanky movements, the effortless yet targeted exuberance — it’s all here. Even when his big, persuasive speeches consist of nothing but hot air, Leto maximizes the charm and minimizes the quirks in such a way that you welcome the warm breeze. Adam enjoys when others are puzzled or taken aback by his eccentric behavior; there’s a glint in his giant pupils, as if he knows as soon as his targets are off-balance, he can swoop in for the kill. But Leto never leans too hard into Adam’s unusual antics. He’s kooky and convincing in equal measure; relatable enough that stuffy, deep-pocketed, old-timers will make a deal, and unique to the extent that young professionals will work long hours for low wages because only he can envision “the future of work.” As dialed in for the serious moments as he is for the comic flourishes, Leto understands what each scene calls for, and he delivers.
Peter Kramer / Apple TV+
Hathaway is nearly his match, even in a role stretched to his limits. She gets two big comedy beats that payoff huge (so I dare not spoil them here) and skillfully slips in lines that mock Rebekah’s new-age nonsense — and when she does, there’s a little extra zip on each zinger. Adam’s oblivious, self-lampooning comments are wisely tossed off by Leto, but it’s fitting that Rebekah, who always feels overlooked and undervalued, would beg for a little more attention than her “star” of a hubby, even when she’s saying something embarrassing. Together, the two are so dialed in that it’s easy to buy into their romance; “WeCrashed” operates under the presumption their love story is as pure as their business was ridiculous, which may be true, but it also becomes obtrusive.
Devoting so much time to dates, fights, and reconciliations, as well as board meetings, deal-making, and pop-up parties, there’s not much time for “WeCrashed” to look beyond Adam and Rebekah. The story of “WeWork” is here — at least, the story from the founders’ perspective — but the context is lacking.
Episode 3 opens on a new hire, and during the brief introduction (via another great montage!) we get to see what WeWork is like through her eyes: “Thank God It’s Monday” parties mean starting the week with shots, getting drunk with coworkers , and hooking up in the “fuck closet.” That loop is encouraged by Adam, who leads the TGIM toasts, and embraced by a company full of bros. When female staffers try to voice their concerns, there’s either no one listening (WeWork didn’t initially have an HR department), or Rebekah, the highest-ranking woman at WeWork, attacks them for being too sensitive.
All of this is great. Memorable chunks of the hour see “WeCrashed” holding Adam and Rebekah accountable for irresponsible and inconsiderate actions that ruined lives. Even the ending coda emphasizes how WeWork abused its employees and left them in tatters. But the episode takes a major detour in the middle. The third hour is as much about Rebekah’s tumultuous family history (not Gwyneth, don’t worry) as it is her disregard for employee well-being (which does create a biting irony, since wellness is her whole thing). Rebekah needs space for herself in order to process personal developments; meanwhile, her staff is crammed together in flimsy tents on a small compound where everyone is expected to party through the night. But the commentary is dulled not only by the earnest approach to Rebekah’s struggles, but the fact that she’s the one in the spotlight. The new hire just kind of fades away, only to pop up in later episodes for similarly halfhearted attempts at providing a voice to the voiceless.
By the time “WeCrashed” wraps, more bits of satire have been slyly infused, but the bite isn’t strong enough to leave a mark. The tone settles somewhere between disillusioned and silly. Leto and Hathway are far more dominant than the holes poked in their subjects, and their performances more enjoyable than their characters are contemptible. Perhaps it’s easier to wonder at Neumann than be reminded of his sins, but that’s hardly an impression warranting another visit.
“WeCrashed” premiered at the 2022 SXSW Film Festival. Apple TV+ will release the first three episodes Friday, March 18 with a weekly rollout following.