The following is part of our coverage of SXSW 2022. For more, click here.
WeWork and Jared Leto. Two things guaranteed to send a shiver down the spine. Hot off the heels of the recent release of Hulu’s The Dropout, Apple TV+ throws their hat into the ring their own chronicle of a white collar grift. WeCrashed, starring Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway, made its premiere this past Saturday at the 2022 South by Southwest Film Festival. Going off of the energetic, frequently hilarious pilot episode, this show has some serious potential.
Jared Leto might as well have “hit or miss” written on his forehead. His bizarre method acting yields result that are all over the place. Between last year’s House of Gucci and this episode, he appears to have finally found his niche: comedy. Like Gucci‘s Paolo, Leto’s Adam Neumann is a charismatic, deeply strange figure. At the start of WeCrashed, a hungover Adam takes a bong hit handed to him by an assistant, hops into his car with his glamorous wife Rebekah (Anne Hathaway) blasting “Roar” by Katy Perry, and struts into the WeWork headquarters where his employees scramble to cue up “Roar” once again. WeCrashed presents Adam and Rebekah as the symbols of American startup excess. Tacky, though impossible to not kind of admire.
After that alluring flash-forward, WeCrashed jumps back in time several years. Adam Neumann struggles to survive in the Big Apple. He has the natural gift of a salesman, finessing the people in his life for six packs, beer, what have you. Yet, he doesn’t have an idea that he truly believes in. Despite getting laughed out of his business classes, he finds a partner in his entrepreneurial pursuits in classmate Miguel McKelvey (Kyle Marvin). Neumann is the idea guy, McKelvey has the actual resources, and they have no concept. It’s only when Neumann’s romantic interest Rebekah comes into their orbit that the idea for the flexible shared workspaces of WeWork.
Glen Ficarra and John Requa direct the pilot written by series creators Drew Crevello and Lee Eisenberg. The episode retains a strong grip on tone. WeCrashed is primarily a satire, one that puts a great deal of trust its audience. They seemingly aggrandize Adam and Rebekah, making their “grindset”, look like something to aspire. At the same time, at every corner they’re poking fun of these characters, these monsters of late-stage capitalism who care about getting to the top first, and their actual product second. Like The Wolf of Wall Street, it’s hard not to see impressionable audiences seeing Adam as cool. The Jordan Belfort of start-ups. And it’s those blurred lines that make WeCrashed work.
It’s like we’re getting an inside view into how these two figures view themselves. Their toxic romance, built entirely on their mutual narcissism, dramatically plays like a charm. Unlike the work of, say, an Adam McKay, letting the satire naturally emanate from the text lets it develop into something that much more potent. Unfortunately, there is a sense that this series can’t sustain this for 8 episodes. A languid pace makes it feel as if this might’ve been better as a movie.
On the other hand, WeCrashed is immensely watchable television. For a series that was hardly on my radar, the performances of Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway, supplemented by endlessly clever writing/direction, make me hungry to keep covering this series. Although it may never reach WeWork’s highs as the most successful start-up of all time, it crushes its goal of being excellent television. –James Preston Poole
WeCrashed premieres on March 18th on Apple TV+.