This documentary shines a light on the rise and fall of a popular company. Telling the whole WeWork story in one feature-length documentary is likely impossible. Therefore, it's commendable that WeWork: Or the Making and Breaking of a $46 Billion Unicorn captures at least most of the what involved in the story. From beginning to end, the documentary systematically moves through the company's existence, publicly and privately, prior to its swift collapse. While limiting, the focus is clearly all on Adam Neumann, and the film both benefits and suffers because of this focus. Indeed, much of this engagement is needed because it presents the raw experience of what being around Neumann was like. Seeing his charisma and motivational power provides a clearer sense of how exactly so many people fell under his spell. How he convinced big-time venture capitalists to invest in WeWork. How he convinced the founder of SoftBank (the 36th largest public company in the world), Masayoshi Son, to invest $4 billion in WeWork. How Neumann capitalized on taking advantage of venture capitalist FOMO (fear of missing out), and so on. WeWork was going to be the next Amazon or Facebook or Twitter (even though it was never really a tech company), and investors all wanted to be on the ground floor of the next huge start up. But it was always just an incubator/co-working space rental company.
Where it fails, however, is when it becomes clear that the film won't be saying anything else or provide deeper insight beyond summarizing what happened. At some point, this documentary becomes like a book report, albeit a very deft and thorough one. But of course, summaries and book reports aren't criticism and nor are they takes on the subject in question. And this is what kind of sticks in the craw a bit. It leaves the feeling that there's no happy ending and only lessons for those who lost everything. The Neumanns are billionaires and set for life, and the new WeWork under different leadership is still valued at $9 billion as of March 2021. This leaves the impression of evil prevailing, of the Bond villain winning. And only a general, vague, and somewhat unhelpful lesson remains: Let's hope that doesn't happen again!