Jared Leto is an actor with an infamous reputation for getting into his roles too deeply, for going over the top in his quest to turn into the Joker or a member of the Gucci clan.
So it feels natural to cast the actor as Adam Neumann, the enigmatic, erratic and egomaniacal former CEO of co-working startup WeWork. At least, that’s how Leto presents Adam to the world in Apple TV+’s “WeCrashed,” a new series about Adam, his wife Rebekah (Anne Hathaway) and the rise and fall of the company.
Leto comes to dominate “WeCrashed” (streaming Fridays, ★★★ out of four) which details how the company became a failed “unicorn,” going from a $47 billion valuation to near bankruptcy in just six weeks. It’s already been the subject of a 2021 Hulu documentary, “WeWork: Or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn,” and the fictionalized Apple series takes its inspiration from the investigative Wondery podcast.
Created by Lee Eisenberg and Drew Crevello, “WeCrashed” differentiates itself by focusing on Adam and Rebekah’s love story, their shared delusions and aspirations and how the fate of WeWork was often determined by their moods and impulses.
“WeCrashed” opens at the moment when Adam – filthy rich and more frustrating and selfish than ever – walks into a meeting with a board of directors that wants his head but quickly flashes back to his far more humble beginnings.
A serial entrepreneur (as he calls himself), Adam has several miracle businesses going at once, from baby clothes with knee pads to high heels that convert to flats. He’s not finding much success, but his penchant for charming and manipulating people still gets him most of what he wants, including free dinner from his neighbor or a date with Rebekah Paltrow, a yoga instructor and cousin of Gwyneth (as she’ll tell anyone and everyone) who rejects him at a party but whom he pursues relentlessly.
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At business school, Adam meets Miguel (Kyle Marvin), an unhappy architect who is just as taken with Adam as everyone else is. The two plot a business together (with Miguel doing much of the actual work) and soon turn their single Brooklyn co-working space into a multibillion-dollar enterprise. Along the way, Adam marries Rebekah, raises (and quickly loses) millions of dollars, taking advantage of employees, losing friends and closing himself off from sense and reason.
Leto has the flashy, boisterous role that often sees him screaming, running around barefoot, or sticking his tongue out. And he’s well suited to it, donning a slick wig, muted makeup and an Israeli accent. But Hathaway has a much more nuanced role, as a more stoic personality, frustrated by being shunted to the side by her attention-grabbing husband. The two have surprising chemistry and easy command of the screen, often with Hathaway coolly preening in the background as Leto chews the scenery to his heart’s content.
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At eight episodes, “WeCrashed” is a little bloated and occasionally a bit tiresome. Leto and Hathaway have the slightly unenviable task of playing characters who neither learn nor grow, but rather regress and devolve, so the conflicts between them and their co-stars are often repeated. The series sags in the middle episodes after an exciting start. The propulsion returns at the end, but viewers have to get there to enjoy it.
It’s a shame that sometimes the writers get so into the weeds following every step of the WeWork journey that they miss opportunities to highlight more than just Adam’s manipulations and crazy ideas. An episode that examines the frat boy, sexist, party-hearty culture the company curated is among the series’ best, portraying the collateral damage of burnt-out, laidoff, and exploited employees that WeWork left in its destructive wake.
It’s hard to look away from “WeCrashed” – although there are plenty of cringe-worthy moments that may make viewers avert their eyes. Even if you know how the WeWork story ends, it’s an enthralling ride to the inevitable implosion.