Type keyword(s) to search


WeCrashed on Apple TV+ Is as Hollow as the People It Portrays

The new limited series sets out to critique WeWork's cultish leaders, but ends up just copying their behavior.
  • Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway star as Adam and Rebekah Neumann in WeCrashed. (Photo: Apple TV+)
    Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway star as Adam and Rebekah Neumann in WeCrashed. (Photo: Apple TV+)
    WeCrashed | Apple TV+
    Eight-Episode Limited Series (Docudrama) | TV-14

    For a moment, it seems like WeCrashed is going to transcend the grotesque behavior of its lead characters. At the top of the third episode in this eight-part limited series on Apple TV+, we meet a young woman on her first day at WeWork, the co-working-cum-lifestyle business that became a phenomenon thanks to its messianic CEO Adam Neumann (played here by Jared Leto). She has the eagerness of a twentysomething who thinks they're doing something special, and hurls herself into the company's chaotic culture, where people work around the clock and mandatory team meetings devolve into bacchanals of loud music, tequila, and sex in the supply closet. We see her chant WeWork's name with dozens of her co-workers, fist raised in the air like a conquering soldier, and at the end of the sequence, we see her riding a charter bus to a summer camp where employees swim, network, and binge drink.

    It's a promising scene because it evokes the cult-like atmosphere that helped WeWork convince employees and investors alike that Neumann and his wife Rebekah (played by Anne Hathaway) were using an office rental business to make the world a better place. That's arguably what makes the company's story stand out among the other start-up sagas currently dominating prestige TV, including The Dropout and Super Pumped. The Neumanns presented themselves as religious leaders more than businesspeople. They used the concepts of family and community to insist that WeWork — and its offshoots focusing on communal living and early childhood education — were about nothing less than the the human soul.

    Yet the series, which is based on the podcast of the same name, wants us to know that for all their spiritual talk, the Neumanns were just narcissists who used their followers to increase their power. There are many scenes of Adam forgetting someone's name until he thinks they can help him, and Rebekah treating her employees like interchangeable lackeys who are there to carry her coat. This will be familiar to anyone who has seen The Vow or The Way Down: There's always a moment when the cult leader's charisma is contrasted with their disregard for their postulants.

    In those projects, however, the followers get to speak for themselves. In this one, the young woman who momentarily pulls focus from the Neumanns barely says a word. The only reason we know her name is because she holds up her ID badge, and we certainly don't know what drew her to WeWork. The same goes for everyone else in the Neumann's orbit. None of them — including company co-founder Miguel McKelvey (Kyle Marvin) — get to drive the story or even have a personality. They're all there to serve the narrative needs of Adam and Rebekah.

    For instance, when female employees revolt against tin-eared comments that Rebekah makes at the summer camp, we only see how it affects her. She gets into bed and cries because of their criticism. She tries to clear her mind with a swim, but she just can't find the inner peace she needs. So she fires the company's head of communications because a reporter won't stop talking about her gaffe.

    And about that communications director: Episode three ends with a shot of her company ID badge getting trampled in the mud. This is supposed to be an indictment of how the Neumanns treat people, but the show hasn't earned that moral authority. For all its supposed condemnation of the power couple, it stays fixated on them. Just like Adam and Rebekah themselves, it treats the little people as faceless props in their story. It assumes that the leaders, no matter how nauseating, are ultimately the only ones that matter.



    First three episodes premiere on Apple TV+ Friday March 18, 2022. New episodes drop Fridays through April 22.

    Created by Lee Eisenberg and Drew Crevello. Based on the Wondery podcast WeCrashed: The Rise and Fall of WeWork.
    Starring: Jared Leto, Anne Hathaway, Kyle Marvin, America Ferrera, O. T. Fagbenle, Theo Stockman, Anthony Edwards, and Steven Boyer.

    Mark Blankenship has been writing about arts and culture for twenty years, with bylines in The New York Times, Variety, Vulture, Fortune, and many others. You can hear him on the pop music podcast Mark and Sarah Talk About Songs.

    TOPICS: WeCrashed, Apple TV+, Anne Hathaway, Jared Leto