Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway in WeCrashed.
Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway in WeCrashed.
Photo: AppleTV+






4/5 Stars


WeCrashed follows the rise and fall of WeWork, one of the world's biggest startups and the love that made it all possible. 


WeCrashed is a story of romance. Perhaps a toxic and problematic romance, but a romance nonetheless. The heart of the series is the relationship between WeWork founder Adam Neumann (Jared Leto) and his wife Rebekah Paltrow (Anne Hathaway) and how that impacted the rise and eventual fall of WeWork.

There has been a recent rise of series based on true stories about scammers and founders, and WeCrashed is an interesting addition to the pantheon. Based on the podcast with the same name, the series begins at the end – eccentric co-founder Adam Neumann is told by his board of directors that he needs to resign as CEO of WeWork after an exposé in the Wall Street Journal.

The show then flashes back 12 years previously. It tracks Adam, a 'serial entrepreneur' as he calls himself, in business class. He comes up with ideas and meets the future co-founder of WeWork, Miguel McKelvey (Kyle Marvin) and his future wife, Rebekah. We move with Adam as WeWork grows. He uses his charisma and strength in sales to convince many financiers to invest in his business; he uses the money to expand the company without making a real profit or giving his employees competitive pay.

Although the series is about WeWork, the creators of the series, Drew Crevello and Lee Eisenberg, instead focused on Adam and Rebekah and their unique relationship. The pair are so interesting that I would have thought they were too broad to be real characters if they were not based on real-life people. Before he started WeWork, Adam was a struggling businessman, and it is Rebekah's advice and encouragement that gives him the idea for the shared co-working space. And it is also Rebekah's 'spiritual guidance' that prompts a lot of the eccentricities of the company, such as its choice to go vegan, its' eventual expansion into communal living and her own project WeGrow, an elementary school. Rebekah is also the one who comes up with the company's mission statement: 'Elevating the world's consciousness.'

But that's not to say that Rebekah is painted as a Lady Macbeth-like character whispering and manipulating Adam. Adam and Rebekah are very much a team on the same wavelength. It is almost enough to make you believe that soulmates exist because there is no way these two could not have found each other. And I thought it was a smart decision of the show to focus on them and not on the various intricacies that made up why WeWork didn't work. Very few pieces of media can explain these types of complex doctrines, and The Big Short and WeCrashed seemed to understand their own struggles in this regard.

It feels almost kismet that to have playing this eccentric businessman, they should cast an actor known for his own eccentricities. And Jared Leto's over-the-top performances work in his favour because that is precisely how Adam Neumann is. But the crazy antics of Neumann sometimes mask the fact that Neumann as a character is very thinly written. Perhaps this is because the writers did not know much about him other than his public profile. Story threads such as his relationship with his father and even with his sister are so casually skirted over or dropped that you wonder why it was introduced in the first place. There is very little curiosity about why Adam is the way he is or why he feels he has so much to prove.

Rebekah, however, is given a full character study. We learn about how she feels like she's second-best: to her cousin Gwyneth Paltrow, her husband, and her new friend Elishia Kennedy (America Ferrera) and the effect on her self-esteem. Anne Hathaway is a powerhouse in this role. She manages the deep cadence of Rebekah's voice and her sense of entitlement and privilege that just seems to emanate from her pores. Many of Rebekah's lines seem so arbitrary and nonsensical, but whenever Hathaway delivers them, she puts so much truth and authenticity in the performance, that you believe that Rebekah believes what she is saying. Episode 3 is particularly a strong episode where we learn through flashbacks about the death of Rebekah's brother because of cancer and about her father's troubles with the law.

However, there are some inconsistencies with the show where it looks like it attempted to follow a narrative thread and then just left it halfway through. There is an episode that begins from the perspective of an employee at WeWork, and it seems like we would see more about the toxic work environment, but we don't learn much further until Rebekah is confronted by the women in episode 3. Another device that they use is that, at one point, they show a figure on the screen of how much money WeWork is losing after every decision is made, and this helps to put things into perspective, but it is abandoned soon after.

That being said, I still found WeCrashed to be a compelling and enjoyable watch. The writers seem to understand that to make the characters compelling and engaging; they don't necessarily have to be sympathetic. I was intrigued by Adam and Rebekah and frustrated and annoyed at times, but I never wanted them to get away with how they treated their employees. And Leto and Hathaway's performances were the key to making these characters come alive in a way that told the story of WeWork in a new light.


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