The spate of "how did they get away with this?" streaming shows of late are no doubt indicative of how the US is trying to make sense of spending four years under the control of an out-and-out grifter.
'Inventing Anna', 'The Dropout', 'The Tinder Swindler', and now 'WeCrashed' set out to examine how people can be swallowed in the vortex of large personalities, but all the way while showing us just how awful and insidious they truly are. They consistently argue against themselves - on the one hand, we're supposed to be horrified by how they get away with it. On the other hand, the direction and the writing so often lean towards marvelling at them and their chutzpah. In the end, you're left vaguely angered by it all and the endless detail trying to stretch out the story over multiple episodes just leaves you benumbed by it.
'WeCrashed' takes in the wild ride to the top and the relatively shallow fall from grace of Adam Neumann, his wife Rebekah Paltrow-Neumann and WeWork. Chances are you've walked by a WeWork at some point. What 'WeCrashed' does quite well is underline that the entire concept of hot-desking wasn't anything relatively new before WeWork came along. Indeed, 'WeCrashed' goes to painstaking lengths to underline just how terrible a businessman Adam Neumann was and most likely still is - overpaying for leases on buildings, giving away ridiculous special offers on desk space, generating massive daily losses, and frittering away cash on early 2010 parties while vastly underpaying staff and generating a toxic workplace culture that would ultimately be part of their downfall.
Much of 'WeCrashed' is devoted to the twin performances of Anne Hathaway and Jared Leto as two of the most awful, obnoxious creatures to ever walk God's green earth. Both characters are consummate bullshit artists - Adam refers to himself as a "serial entrepreneur" and seems to enjoy getting white-girl drunk at the daily parties WeWork seems to host. Rebekah, meanwhile, is the exact kind of person you'd cross the room to avoid at that same party - preachy and obnoxious vegan who delights in directing her cosmic energies towards whatever fad is occupying her in that moment, be it toddler education, acting, or her own children. The characters in their orbit pale in comparison to them, even when they try to curb their reckless spending or make sense of their woo-woo ways. None of it ever seems to penetrate the forcefield of self-absorption around them.
For their part, directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa - who have a decent track record with comedies - are able to find the humour in the subject matter quite easily. Anne Hathaway has a much stronger feel for the comedy than Jared Leto has; getting some of the best scenes in the entire miniseries all on her own and far away from Leto. Yet, while these moments are very well written and staged, and the music choices throughout really do place 'WeCrashed' in that time period so well, it all feels empty. That may be the point - that money is ultimately imaginary and company valuations are very often plucked out of the sky - but so much of 'WeCrashed' just leads the audience around in circles.
Like 'The Dropout' in particular, 'WeCrashed' zeroes in on the central force driving the crazed enterprise while ignoring the very real people who were caught up in it. WeWork was a hellscape to work in, despite all the summer drinking sessions and bright and airy workspaces. It's touched on just a handful of times across the nearly eight hours of TV. Instead, the focus is on turning brazenly selfish and awful people into entertaining characters that you'll throw away eight hours on only to realise that, in the end, it's all bullshit.
Something you could probably grasp in the first five minutes of the first episode.