Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway Make ‘WeCrashed’ More Fun to Watch Than It Probably Should Be

A cautionary tale about unchecked capitalism becomes a romantic dramedy in this AppleTV+ retelling of the WeWork saga

Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway AppleTV+

Premium television is currently serving up a wave of star-studded miniseries telling the sensational stories of recession-era start-ups and the charismatic, destructive personalities behind them. Following Showtime’s Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber and Hulu’s The Dropout comes WeCrashed on AppleTV+, an eight-episode dramatization of the rise and fall of Adam and Rebekah Neumann, the eccentric couple behind WeWork. WeCrashed is a capitalist fable about the dangers of overzealous expansion and unchecked ego, packaged inside a digestible romantic dramedy about the weirdest, most awful couple you’ve ever met. While its sparing criticism for the system that created them can be infuriating at times, lively performances and a playful tone make WeCrashed eminently fun to watch — probably more fun than it should be.

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Adam Neumann (Jared Leto) is an Israeli immigrant who has come to New York City to make his fortune as a “serial entrepreneur,” armed with the confidence and charisma of a cult leader. Rebekah Paltrow (Anne Hathaway) is a yoga instructor and wannabe philosopher backed by family money and a Bachelor’s in Buddhism from Cornell. Adam and Rebekah fall deeply in love, bound together by their shared dream of reshaping the world in their own image. Together with architect Miguel McKelvey (Kyle Marvin), they give birth to WeWork, a company that rents co-working space to small businesses with the very logical and attainable goal of “raising the world’s consciousness.” Adam and Rebekah begin as a cult of two, supercharged by an almost religious belief in each other and their ability to manifest success through positive thinking. Over the course of a decade, their cult grows into the third most valuable privately-held company in the world, and then collapses almost overnight.

The saga of WeWork is tailor-made for dramatization. Rarely has a business story come complete with such outlandish characters, not to mention a love story that can be easily finessed into becoming the main event. While Rebekah is a supporting player in the most prominent non-fictional documents of the WeWork collapse (including the Wondery podcast on which this series is directly based), WeCrashed creators Lee Eisenberg and Drew Cavello have promoted her to co-star and framed Rebekah and Adam’s relationship as the spine of the narrative, the foundation on which WeWork is built and the cause of its near-total destruction. More importantly, it gives the viewer a context in which it’s safe to root for them, because they are unmistakably the villains of the business side of the story. You want to see Adam and Rebekah’s love survive, in part because their devotion to each other is eerily beautiful, and in part because no one would wish either of them on their worst enemy. The company’s peril rises in parallel to a rough patch in their marriage, and while Adam’s empire certainly deserves to fall, it’s just as certain that he and Rebekah deserve each other. 

As Adam and Rebekah, Leto and Hathaway are each cast to perfectly weaponize the worst parts of their public personas. Adam owes his success to having such a “larger than life” personality that no one around him can tell for sure whether he’s a brilliant businessman or just a very handsome lunatic. It’s not unlike how Jared Leto’s commitment to roles that require thick affects and dramatic physical transformations make it difficult to sort out his acting ability from his training regimen. (Leto and Neumann also share the distinction of having informally turned their businesses into a cult.) Rebekah represents a nightmarish case of someone possessing all of Anne Hathaway’s exhausting “theater kid” energy, but none of her considerable talent. The tragedy of Rebekah (or at least this fictionalized version of her) is that she desperately seeks public validation but doesn’t have anything to offer and is surrounded by people who do. She responds to every failure by setting even loftier, more immeasurable goals, and by exacting swift vengeance on WeWork employees whose energy she doesn’t like. Leto and Hathaway both thrive in their roles, but it’s Hathaway (who is also doing a voice, it just doesn’t stick out as much) who takes home the game ball, infusing a great deal of humanity into the show’s most contemptible character. Hathaway is responsible for the show’s funniest moments, as well as its darkest.

Above all, WeCrashed is a story about hubris, a cautionary tale about unchecked capitalism that is nevertheless a capitalist text. Adam Neumann is a personification of neoliberalism, a wide-eyed free-market optimist who believes that his business will not only make him rich, but save the world. The more money and power he has, the better off everyone will be. He and Rebekah philosophize about creating a more sustainable world in which people live their dreams, but their effort to save the planet is superficial at best and their own employees are working for peanuts, hypnotized into believing that the work itself is reward enough until the company finally goes public and their stock options make them rich. WeCrashed is highly critical of Neumann’s reckless, ego-driven expansion of his company, but the criticisms are aimed at the rate of expansion, not the expansion itself. Whenever level-headed characters such as investor Cameron Lautner (O-T Fagbenle) try to talk sense into Neumann’s cultists, it’s often to assert that commercial real estate is a market with a finite demand and therefore cannot possibly scale to the same extent as a tech company. He’s right, WeWork isn’t Amazon, but it’s never questioned whether or not Amazon should be Amazon. The fact that no company can possibly grow forever is not part of the equation. (How could it be, when this series is the product of a computer manufacturer that is now also a movie studio and a credit card company?) WeCrashed insists that the cure for capitalist excess is not anti-capitalism, but slightly more realistic capitalism.

Anne Hathaway and Jared Leto AppleTV+

That’s not to say that WeCrashed lacks any class consciousness. At best, it confesses that if your employer assures you that your work is changing the world for the better, they’re probably hoping you’ll accept righteous satisfaction as a substitute for a fair wage. As the company’s perceived value grows and Adam and Rebekah’s lifestyle becomes more lavish, reminders of their employees’ exploitation are never far from view. Multiple subplots center around WeWork employees, following the arc of their indoctrination into the cult of We, the impossible demands on their time, and their moments of doubt and clarity as to whether or not anything that they’ve been working for is real. WeCrashed addresses the toxicity of WeWork’s office culture and how management’s failure to address it is never punished, and makes it clear that everyone, even those who helped grow the company from the ground up, was getting paid a pittance. Still, these moments spent with the victims of WeWork’s exploitation feel insufficient, especially since the Neumanns’ greed is framed more often as funny than evil. Were this a work of pure fiction, no ending could satisfy short of WeWork’s employees carving up the Neumanns’ fortune. But since WeCrashed is based on a true story, no such justice is dispensed.

WeCrashed is best enjoyed as a crime drama, a character-driven series in which compelling characters start off as underdogs and transform into villains that you’re desperate to see get caught. Like a softer, tamer Wolf of Wall Street, WeCrashed is hard to look away from, a glimpse at the awful people who wield power over our lives but also an undeniable affirmation of the charisma that helps them get away with it.


 

The first three episodes of WeCrashed premiere on AppleTV+ on March 18th.

Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway Make ‘WeCrashed’ More Fun to Watch Than It Probably Should Be