WeWork: Or The Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn | Review | SXSW Film Festival 2021

"Tech is the future," a narrative we're all too familiar with in a world perpetually going online, WeWork: Or The Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn, captures one of the many dark stories to arise from the digital age. 

American-Israeli businessman, Adam Neumann, founded WeWork in 2010. The documentary follows the rise and fall of the company's trials and tribulations. New York City is the backdrop, divided into two factions; those who have dreams and those who buy them. Neumann is, as to be expected, not painted in the most flattering of light by the documentary. Unsurprisingly, he rejected the offer to participate in the film, as did his wife, entrepreneur and businesswoman, Rebekah Neumann, and thus, the audience leaves wondering what the account of this story would look like if the two shared their half of the tale. 

Towards the end, one of the film's contributors says, "when you focus on Adam, you lose the stories of those who helped". Director Jed Rothstein, as per his Google card, "specializes in hard-to-get stories," but here, the story lies with the contributor he couldn't get. Neumann becomes an enigma in this cult-like dystopia obsessed with aesthetic, and we get dropped in the middle of it. Rothstein does a satisfactory job of giving some foundational context to those perhaps unfamiliar with the financial market, but somewhere along the way, as is the common mistake in these stories, audiences have to extend their knowledge beyond what the director has given us. 

It feels like a critique that we don't need, and it would've done well to focus on the stories of individual employees more than damning an industry we already know to be corrupt. It's always challenging to paint a portrait of a contributor not actively participating in the film, and so Neumann is made a figurehead and nothing more, not necessarily one that deserves empathy, but it would've been interesting to see beyond the one-dimensional portrait of a greedy billionaire. As we are aware, there is no such thing as ethical wealth. The story of WeWork is one that perhaps belongs to fiction, although its never-ending twists and turns are almost too whacky for the big screen, if at all possible. 

There are some fascinating contributors with some poignant stories to share. Particularly in an era where digital connections have taken the forefront of people's lives due to communal crisis, WeWork's concept is something more contemporary and perhaps necessary than it was a decade ago. Had Rothstein honed in on two or three of them, or even the angle of connection, this would've been a sobering look at our current landscape and the world we are falling further victim to each day. 


 WeWork: Or The Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn is playing at SXSW Film Festival 2021


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