Stream It Or Skip It? Here's Why You Should Watch WeCrashed If You Haven't Seen It Yet

Image credit: Legion-Media

A biographical project with Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway.

The title, WeWork, is clever wordplay, seeing how the series is about the rise and fall of WeWork, the popular global chain of co-working spaces.

The series begins in 2008. Adam Neumann, a fail-fast-fail-often serial entrepreneur (Jared Leto) and his friend Miguel McKelvey (Kyle Marvin) set up a brand new chain of co-working spaces. Their ambition is to go beyond co-working: they want to create a new lifestyle and for their co-working locations to be places where people hang out, socialise, get to know each and inspire one another.

The plan seems far-fetched, but Neumann is persistent and has a powerful reality distortion field, allowing him to turn rational people into devout disciples with relative ease. So despite initial doubts on the part of some nay-sayers, the business takes off. At the same time, Adam hooks up with his future wife, Rebekah (Anne Hathaway), a yoga instructor who wants to be an actress. Adam's sweetheart soon becomes his principal source of strength and inspiration.

So this is just another success story?

No, it most emphatically isn't. Well, not really. WeWork got famous twice: first as one of the most successful startups and then as one of the biggest failures. We get to see how the story ends for Neumann in the very first episode. When they learn how he ended up there through a series of flashbacks.

And that's what makes WeCrashed so good. The series turns the classic rags to riches story on its head. Success stories can be very inspiring, but their downside is that they make us fall prey to a nasty case of survivorship bias: they make us forget that for every success story everybody talks about, there are hundreds or even thousands of epic fails.

And that's what WeCrashed is; it's the true-life story of a resounding success ending up as an epic fail. It's a stark reminder that when experts say a business will probably go belly up, they tend to be right nine times out of ten.

And the icing on the cake with this series is that it helps you better understand such things as IPOs, subletting and other nuances of running a startup that isn’t turning a profit.

How did Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway do?

Quite a bit of buzz was generated by the fact that Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway were cast as Adam and Rebekah.

Both are big-ticket actors; both have an Oscar under their belt (Leto got one for Dallas Buyers Club, and Hathaway got hers for Les Miserables). Both are widely rumoured to be vampires seeing how they hardly seem to have aged at all over the past decades.

Truth be told, Jared's acting is weird. Adam Neumann is Israeli, and Jared went all out to try and emulate his accent. The result is that his character turns into a bit of a caricature. It's the same as House of Gucci, where Jared also went all Tommy Wiseau with no holds barred. Jared's overacting becomes painfully obvious when you watch the actual Adam Neumann, of whom there is ample footage to be found on YouTube. Sure Neumann has an accent, but he's not a walking-talking parody of a person.

In one scene in the series, Rebekah is taking part in a theatrical production of Chekhov's Three Sisters, and at one point, she starts doing an exaggerated Russian accent. It looks hilarious and unnatural, but for Jared Leto, it's his baseline performance throughout the show, except that he manages to keep a straight face in the process.

It seems that Jared got too obsessed with getting the accent right and so he ended up playing the accent rather than the character a lot of the time.

But if you ignore the accent, Jared Leto has done a more or less decent job portraying a very complex character. Adam Neumann has charisma in spades, but in reality, he's a narcissist who is constantly taking advantage of everybody around him. Even his love story is creepy: he stalks his prey and invades her privacy. Leto maintains the balance between cuteness and charm on the one hand and creepiness on the other. And that's exactly what the writers intended.

And as for Hathaway, she once again nailed it, especially in terms of how she depicts the change in her character over the years: she starts as hopeful that her dreams might come true and ends up as a disillusioned cynic who knows she can only rely on herself.

The end result

For the most part, WeCrashed is an interesting and exciting series.

The fact it's based on a true story only adds to it: Adam Neumann is a most eccentric individual who has always talked big and really went out on a limb with WeWork. The series delivers in how it builds up the plot: the outcome is known in advance, but it keeps you entertained by telling you the story from several vantage points at the same time.

But it starts losing momentum somewhere in the middle of the season. The story would have worked much better as a feature film rather than a series, as then the authors would not have had to repeat themselves and drag out the story so much. Nevertheless, there is no sense of regret after watching it. The way the story is told may not be perfect, but the plot itself more than makes up for it.