WeCrashed refuses to admit it's about monsters, not people [Apple TV+ recap] | Cult of Mac

WeCrashed refuses to admit it’s about monsters, not people [Apple TV+ recap]

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WeCrashed recap: Rebekah (played by Anne Hathaway, right) tries to make a new friend this week.
Rebekah (played by Anne Hathaway, right) tries to make a new friend this week.
Photo: Apple TV+

Apple TV+ show WeCrashed tightens up at long last for a reasonably entertaining fourth episode that nevertheless lays bare the essential flaw in its calculus. It’s still asking us to watch and care about the vacuous psychos at the heart of the story of co-working startup WeWork — and it has not made them any more interesting.

Actor Jared Leto’s portrayal of Adam Neumann, the CEO and founder of WeWork, remains unwatchable. And the show keeps hitting Anne Hathaway’s character, Rebekah Neumann, with more and more embarrassment to overcome. But at least there’s the occasional joke.

WeCrashed recap: ‘4.4’

In this week’s episode, titled “4.4,” Adam and Rebekah are on top of the world, but it’s spinning too fast. WeWork is losing $1.2 million a day, and they have five children to feed now. Adam’s chief investor, Bruce Dunlevie (played by Anthony Edwards), is fending off questions from his Benchmark Capital partners about how and why Adam is blazing through all his investment capital.

WeWork’s board thinks expansion is possible. But Adam continues burning money. He imports all his meals, pays for skimpily dressed waiters to serve it to him, and drinks and serves nothing but top-shelf, 45 dollar a glass tequila.

Miguel (Kyle Marvin) says Adam can’t keep up his rapid expansion. Bruce agrees. So Adam goes over their heads and decides to court the leader of Softbank, Masayoshi Son (Eui-sung Kim).

Making waves in Mumbai

Step one: Go to a financiers conference in Mumbai.

Adam decides, as an act of benevolence, to invite his father (Sasson Gabai) on the trip. He doesn’t like his dad, and avoids him at all cost, but for some reason decides that today is the day to include him. Which means that when Adam gives his spiel about growing up with an absent dad, both Masayoshi Son and his father are listening.

Adam’s dad realizes he was a pawn and that they’re never getting the relationship he craves. But Adam does get the Japanese investor’s attention so mission accomplished.

Meanwhile, Rebekah is getting tired of being the only adult in the room. She makes friends with another mom (America Ferrara) at her kids’ school. They both need the company of other people — in Rebekah’s case a regular human being. Or so she thinks. It turns out the mom is Elishia Kennedy, an entrepreneur behind a juice brand.

I’ll be over there making our dream come true

WeCrashed recap: South Korean actor Eui-sung Kim, right, makes a welcome appearance as billionaire tech entrepreneur Masayoshi Son.
South Korean actor Eui-sung Kim, right, makes a welcome appearance as billionaire tech entrepreneur Masayoshi Son.
Photo: Apple TV+

This episode has a few things going for it that the previous three did not. For one, the plotting is tighter and more focused. This episode’s twin plot strands actually meet each other. Plus, you do momentarily care what happens to some of the characters.

The appearance of Eui-sung Kim is also most welcome. Kim is one of the favorite actors of South Korean director Hong Sang-soo, and he’s appeared in some of his best movies since 1996’s The Day a Pig Fell Into the Well. The actor also made time for the likes of Johnnie To’s mesmerizing Office and box-office zombie smash Train to Busan. His take on Masayoshi Son makes you forget he’s playing a billionaire.

Which leads us right into why and how WeCrashed still doesn’t work no matter how fleetingly diverting it can be. There’s a moment where Rebekah tells her maids that she’s going to be dropping her kid off at school in the morning to ambush Elishia. The two women look at each other nervously. They usually drop the kid off. Did they do something wrong?

No, of course not, they just work for rich psychopaths. The show just won’t come out and say it because everyone’s too terrified of losing viewers by admitting what undergirds the show in the long run: These are bad people.

Succession does it right

HBO hit Succession does this successfully every week. For three seasons now, that show has served up the vicarious thrill of seeing sociopathic monsters behave abominably — without ever once pretending they were heroes, or that they had to soften the characters to make them appealing to viewers.

On that show, brothers Roman and Kendall Roy constantly belittle and harass people. Kendall even kills someone in the middle of a drug deal. The show doesn’t ever ask if you like him, or make sure you do. The balance of dreadful things is what’s being watched — the soapy relationships between these subhumans.

It’s taken for granted that viewers understand that the Roys are not aspirational figures. There isn’t a moment where the maids look at each other with recognition. That’s what we in the audience are for.

… but WeCrashed is scared to commit

So why can’t WeCrashed fully commit to showing these people for what they are? Why doesn’t the show do something with Adam’s dad realizing his kid is a lying scumbag? Why is there only that one joke about how heinous Rebekah is as a boss and a person, and the rest of the time we have to take seriously her quest to have one friend who has nothing to do with WeWork?

Even Rebekah’s attempt to berate Adam for interfering in her social life after he offers Elishia a job is cut short when he reveals that the company has just been given a $4 billion cash injection.

“Our first date… there were so many red flags,” she says to him. This should be a joke, but it’s not. Their first date wasn’t a date — they just yelled at each other and Adam tried to sleep with her. She only started dating him because he got her more money. But WeCrashed keeps playing her drama as if it’s something worth caring about on its own terms. But it’s not, and it’s dull and predictable.

There’s even a perfect moment to use as a revelation if the show’s creative team was interested. When Elishia asks Rebekah if her husband is “the real deal,” She pauses and thinks, knowing she has to sell him seriously or she’s admitting the company is bullshit.

“I wouldn’t be with him if he wasn’t,” Rebekah says. She knows she’s lying — you can see it on Hathaway’s face that she’s signing her friendship’s death certificate. She shouldn’t. You can’t be someone like Rebekah Neumann, taking billions and still actively defrauding people as late as 2017, years after this scene, and have a moment where you realize what you’re doing is wrong and your husband is a con man.

On the one hand, you have to, because otherwise you don’t have a show. But I’m saying look at that one hand. Keep looking. That one hand is correct; it’s the only hand that matters.

There should not be a show about Gwyneth Paltrow’s cousin and her huckster husband defrauding other millionaires starring still more millionaires. There’s a joke in this episode about Paltrow being a fraudulent lifestyle guru that feels especially offensive because WeCrashed takes the position that people who fall for her schemes are morons. And yet here’s a whole show about her cousin doing the same thing.

It feels desperately unearned to mock a certain stripe of well-to-do rich Manhattanite while also giving all the oxygen you have to those same people in semi-serious fashion the rest of the time. Rebekah Neumann is an even bigger joke than Gwyneth Paltrow. WeCrashed just can’t admit it, because that would mean admitting the show itself shouldn’t exist.

Watch WeCrashed on Apple TV+

New episodes of WeCrashed arrive each Friday on Apple TV+.

Rated: TV-MA

Watch on: Apple TV+

Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the author of Cinemaphagy: On the Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper, the director of 25 feature films, and the director and editor of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.