Tuesday, May 11, 2021
May 11, 2021

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‘WeWork’ leads strong startup films


After a debut at the SXSW film festival, the documentary “WeWork: Or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Million Unicorn” bows on Hulu today. Directed by Jed Rothstein and co-produced by Forbes Magazine, the film is a look at the rise and fall of WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann, a charismatic entrepreneur who conceived of WeWork as much more than a co-working space, for better and for worse. Neumann was pushed out of the company by the board in late 2019, forced to walk away from the real-estate-company-as-tech startup that had attracted billions in investments.

The film captures a specific moment in time, when technology startups seemed like an economic cure-all, the way of the future and a never-ending cash fountain for those who got in at the right time.

It’s a documentary that calls to mind the other fascinating films about technology, entrepreneurs and the startup culture that defined the 2010s. Here are some streaming selections of other films to accompany “WeWork: Or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Million Unicorn.”

The 2015 biopic “Steve Jobs,” directed by Danny Boyle and written by Aaron Sorkin, stars Michael Fassbender as the Apple figurehead who became deified by Silicon Valley, despite his troubled personal and professional history with the company. It’s another film about a mercurial tech founder who goes to war with his own company over his vision. It remains to be seen if things will work out as well for Neumann as they did for Jobs. Stream it on Netflix.

While you’re at it, watch “The Inventor: Out For Blood in Silicon Valley.” This Alex Gibney-directed doc about the self-styled Jobs-aping tech founder Elizabeth Holmes and her fraudulent blood-testing startup Theranos is fascinating. Stream it on HBO Max.

Both Fyre Fest documentaries are worth your while, and while they’re more specifically about a scheming grifter, the two scandals exist in the same Venn diagram that includes technology, entrepreneurship and high-profile financial disasters (plus visions of wild, booze-soaked retreats). The two Fyre Fest films have different angles on the luxurious Bahamian music festival that proved to be a nightmare for attendees, and landed fraudster founder Billy McFarland in prison. “Fyre Fraud” is on Hulu while “Fyre: The Greatest Party that Never Happened” is on Netflix.

For a sunnier view of startup culture, and the dreams of striving young entrepreneurs, check out “Generation Startup,” about a group of Detroit entrepreneurs looking to make their business dreams a reality. Available to stream for free on Peacock, Vudu and Tubi.

James Ponsoldt’s tech-life drama “The Circle,” starring Tom Hanks and Emma Watson, showcased the all-consuming nature of the technology business, both in work and play, as a young woman goes to work at a Google-like tech corporation that takes over her life. Stream it on Amazon Prime.

Of course, any guide to films about technology, social media and startup life would not be complete without David Fincher’s masterful 2010 film “The Social Network,” which follows Facebook’s rocky rise to ubiquitousness, starring Jesse Eisenberg as troubled founder Mark Zuckerberg. On Netflix and Hulu.