The “train wreck” scenario is played to the hilt in “WeCrashed,” a new Apple TV+ drama about the rise and spectacular fall of WeWork, the revolutionary shared-workspace startup that flamed out in historic Wall Street fashion to the tune of billions.
The series, based on on the Wondery podcast “WeCrashed: The Rise and Fall of WeWork,” stars Jared Leto as Israel-born “serial entrepreneur” Adam Neumann. After a brief flash-forward scene to September 2019 — when the s–t hit the fan — it’s back to 2007. Adam is hawking a line of collapsible heels for women’s shoes and “Krawlers” pants for babies — and failing miserably. His vision for shared roommate living space (in the mold of the “Big Brother” house sans bells and whistles) also hits a dead-end until he meets architect Miguel McKelvey (Kyle Marvin) and they brainstorm the shared workspace scenario — just as Adam meets yoga teacher Rebekah Paltrow (Anne Hathaway), whose part-time acting career pales in comparison to her famous cousin Gwyneth.
It’s difficult to comprehend what Rebekah sees in Adam — he pursues her relentlessly, journeying into stalker territory — but they fall in love. After a series of business hiccups — shady investors, nonstarters, money woes — Adam and Miguel open their first shared-workspace venue, Greenspace, in Brooklyn, an open-floor-plan layout complete with a coffee bar, ping-pong table, etc. which they sell for $500,000 — using that cash and a $1 million wedding gift from Rebekah’s suspicious father to open their first WeWork space in SoHo in 2010.
Before long, the money is flowing in, Rebekah is pregnant, WeWork expands (eventually worldwide) before it all comes crashing down in 2019 after a damning Wall Street Journal article triggers the company’s board members to fire Adam before a planned IPO and WeWork loses a huge chunk of its $47 billion valuation.
There’s much more to the story, of course — particularly Adam and Rebekah’s hubris — and it’s laid out in the eight-episode series in which you’ll also meet key players in the story, including Cameron Lautner (O-T Fagbenle, “The Handmaid’s Tale”), who tries to whip the company into shape for its IPO, young entrepreneur Elishia Kennedy (America Ferrera), whose life is thrown into chaos after joining WeWork and Anthony Edwards as a powerful board member.
Oscar winners Leto and Hathaway (both are executive producers) deliver in roles that are not very glamorous or admirable, given the way in which Adam and Rebekah are portrayed (it all goes to their heads, though their love for and belief in each other is inexorable). I found it a little hard to believe that Rebekah would fall for Adam — as portrayed by Leto, he’s charismatic, but also devious and obnoxious — and Leto’s accent sounds more Italian than Israeli (it’s distracting).
“WeCrashed” is a cautionary tale of excess and greed that we’ve seen too many times before — and will likely see again, since these financial misdeeds meshed with all-too-human foibles seem to often go unheeded (and unchecked) in the world of high-stakes entrepreneurs. But, hey, it makes for a good story.