‘WeCrashed’ Review: Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway Impress in Another Overlong Scammer Series

The Apple TV+ series chronicles the rise and fall of Adam Neumann’s WeWork

Apple TV+

At first glance, “WeCrashed” seems to be the latest limited series in the recent cycle of shows about real-life business disaster cases and variations on financial scamming. And it is that, overlapping with the cocky, growth-obsessed hubris of “Super Pumped” and the Manhattan status-seeking of “Inventing Anna.” But this eight-episode Apple TV+ limited series is also well-timed, at least in theory: With debate raging about the viability of a return to in-person work, “WeCrashed” is most compelling when it examines what, exactly, work means to people — especially people who depend on their supposed calling to nourish their identity (and inflate their sense of self-importance), rather than carrying them from paycheck to paycheck.

If that sounds more than a bit rarified, well, that’s the world in which “WeCrashed” immerses itself — to sometimes fascinating and sometimes myopically repetitive results. Unlike the sprawling (and often unwieldy) “Inventing Anna,” “WeCrashed” zeroes in on its two wannabe-marquee attractions, played by two actual (and Oscar-winning) marquee attractions: Adam Neumann (Jared Leto), gregarious co-founder of the co-working real estate company WeWork, and his wife Rebekah (Anne Hathaway), a “student of life,” which is her elevated way of saying that she knows next-to-nothing about anything. Other characters flit in and out (Anthony Edwards, fresh from “Anna,” appears here as well, establishing himself as the go-to finance guy to be bilked by charismatic scammers) but almost every scene involves either Adam or Rebekah.

While the first episode has some brief flash forwards signaling the not-exactly-spoiler nature of Neumann’s relationship with the flailing company (he was ousted in 2019), most of “WeCrashed” follows a linear path through the “rise and fall” chronicled in its podcast source material. Israeli immigrant Adam Neumann hustles and sweats — not necessarily with the details of his plans (an early presentation seems to be a PowerPoint with about three slides), but through his ongoing, rotating sales pitches to the world, trying his best never to take no for an answer. He finds a surprising outlet for his salesmanship in what eventually becomes WeWork, a business that leases empty office space for rentable co-working, tricked out (at least in theory) with amenities that are supposed make the space feel like a real community.

Early on, he meets his co-founder Miguel (Kyle Marvin) and the yoga student/vegan/failed actress Rebekah Paltrow (cousin of Gwyneth), who are both willing to be seduced by his relentlessness in different ways. Against a lot of odds — including Adam’s seemingly negligible attention to how a successful business functions — the company grows. Maybe “swells” is the better word, because growth as supervised by Adam Neumann is both unsustainable and potentially dangerous.

Neumann’s ethos — his hunger for growth, his complete lack of expertise in any area beyond wheedling people into giving him their time and/or money, his vague exhortations about changing the world without ever specifying how — functions as a stinging critique of the mindless, soulless, sloganeering approach to labor summed up by his beloved “hustle harder” signs, posted all over the WeWork headquarters and workspaces.

Unfortunately, that critique stings so succinctly that seven hours of it seems patently unnecessary. The time spent with Hathaway’s Rebekah quickly begins to feel like a respite, even though she’s plenty insufferable (and, at times, unethical) in her own way.

Apple TV+

That’s a testament to Hathaway’s performance. She and Leto are both going big here, with noticeable vocal changes: He takes on an Israeli accent and outsized vocal mannerisms, while her voice transforms into a lower, unflappable tone. Rebekah struggles with a sense of self-worth as she attempts to find the work that will define her — though she’s even more of a dilettante than her husband, dabbling in vanity theatrical productions and at one point founding a flimsy educational institution called WeGrow.

While Leto’s performance tends to swim, elaborately, on the surface, Hathaway goes a little deeper, revealing pain beneath her rich-girl self-delusion. Leto’s best moments, in turn, are when the show embraces one novel aspect of its familiar finance-scam narrative: That this unstable empire is built upon what’s depicted as a genuinely loving marriage. Adam comes across like a hedonist who still only has eyes for Rebekah. Though their relationship has ups and downs, they’re always willing to return to its dangerous feedback loop of mindless inspiration. They’re a perfect match, with their mutual need to feel that her endless dabbling and his boundless, scattershot ambition aren’t just dithering but genuinely visionary.

Despite the unusual connection at its center, “WeCrashed” manages to test the limits of empathy — and encourage a kind of extended gawk at the endless cajoling, bluffing, and flim-flamming on display, at the expense of greater dramatic tension.

There simply aren’t enough compelling characters to fill out so many hours of familiar sorta-satire. A sequence early in the third episode captures a new employee diving into a raucous, long-hours work culture that is, of course, more like a cult, depicted via montage well-cut by “Thoroughbreds” director Cory Finley. (Other big-name directors include Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, who made a better scam story out of “I Love You Phillip Morris,” and “American Splendor” filmmakers Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini.)

But while “WeCrashed” is clear about how these lower-level employees get screwed, their experiences are ultimately just colorful details in the story of a hustler who somehow manages to stay rich. Streaming series that string a story along eight monotonous episodes may not be as big a scam as a company like WeWork. But they’re starting to feel just as unavoidable.