Review: The Dropout on Disney+: We were almost bored, but Amanda Seyfried is stunning

In January 2022, entrepreneur Elizabeth Holmes was convicted of fraud. The creator of the medical start-up Theranos is at the heart of The Dropout, the Disney+ mini-series available this April 20. Eight captivating episodes, without being essential.

How to set The Dropout, the Disney+ series on the con artist Elisabeth Holmes, available this Wednesday, April 20, 2022? Maybe like this: Do or do not. There is no try. » Fans of Star Wars will have obviously recognized Yoda’s wise words. But this quote didn’t just inspire budding little Padawans: it also motivated the young billionaire Elizabeth Holmes, to the point of plastering it on the walls of her successful company, Theranos.

Who was Elizabeth Holmes?

Back in 2003, with its flip phones and Dido’s voice on all the radios. The future entrepreneur has just entered Stanford University to study biology and medicine, with the ambition of becoming the next Steve Jobs.

A year later, at only 19, she imagined a machine capable of diagnosing any disease. No needles or complex blood tests: just one drop of blood and you’re done. An innovation that will lead to the rise and fall of a supposedly revolutionary empire: Theranos. With this company with devices that never worked, Elizabeth Holmes fooled many investors, journalists, but also many doctors, for nearly 15 years.

You will take back a few scammers?

With a story as improbable and a character as charismatic as Elizabeth Holmes, it’s no wonder that fiction takes hold of it. Based on ABC Audio’s eponymous podcast, The Dropout is produced by Disney+. But the miniseries is unfortunately not the first to unravel the successes and failures of 21st century con artists.

In just a few months, the small screen has already developed the extraordinary adventures of con artist Anna Delvey in Inventing Anna on Netflix, or those of the Neumann couple, at the origin of the start-up WeWork, with WeCrashed on Apple TV+. Located in the same period as The Dropoutin the early 2000s and 2010s, these two series were already recounting, with varying degrees of success, the ruthless functioning of capitalism or the workings of the tech world.

With Theranos, Elizabeth Holmes built a vast fraudulent business // Source: Beth Dubber/Hulu

The Dropout so just when we’re starting to get tired of these rich man problems. The ferocious female figure, the repeated lies, the gullible investors, the spectacular fall when the deception is discovered, the overflowing ambitions of the entrepreneurs… All the ingredients come together to serve us the same sauce, again and again.

Queen Amanda Seyfried

However, the Disney + mini-series manages to hold its own. Of course, it is far from original and does not radically deviate from the codes of the genre. But its frenetic pace and ability to portray cold, calculating characters with empathy still end up catching our attention.

Elizabeth Meriwether, who was already at the helm of the sitcom New Girl, develops here his dramatic qualities in the creation of these eight captivating episodes. The realization is sober, rather conventional, but the control is sufficient from a narrative point of view so that we remain glued to our screen throughout the mini-series.

The Dropout on Disney+: we almost got bored, but Amanda Seyfried is stunning
Elizabeth Holmes is played by the wonderful Amanda Seyfried // Source: Beth Dubber/Hulu

I have to say that The Dropout boasts a cast of fascinating characters and wonderful actors to portray them. Naveen Andrews (Lost), Stephen Fry (The Hobbit), William H. Macy (Shameless) or Kate Burton (Grey’s Anatomy) thus give themselves the replica in a distribution of very high level. With these convincing interpretations, each protagonist takes on the scale necessary to move us or revolt us, as in the overwhelming fifth episode.

At the head of this brilliant cast is the formidable Amanda Seyfried, seen recently in mank by David Fincher or Twin Peaks: The Return. With the role of Elizabeth Holmes, the actress brilliantly confirms the dramatic turn in her career, after years of comedies. The actress is simply stunning, reproducing the facial expressions of the entrepreneur with a disconcerting similarity. The work on her voice, which evolves over the episodes, is particularly impressive. She gives the heartless hustler enough cracks and duplicity for empathy to even point the tip of her nose.

tunes of The Social Network

By multiplying the back and forth between the premises of Theranos and the declarations of justice given by Elizabeth Holmes in 2017, when her empire begins to crumble, The Dropout mischievously bets on the spectacular transformation of this student with all-consuming ambition, into an entrepreneur strategist who was worth 9 billion dollars.

The Dropout on Disney+: we almost got bored, but Amanda Seyfried is stunning
The series notably explores the toxic relationship between Elizabeth Holmes and Sunny Balwani // Source: Beth Dubber / Hulu

An unflattering portrait, but which allows the mini-series to subtly address sexist injunctions in tech, entrepreneurship, finance, university, in short, in the world in general. The narration also takes time to dwell on the toxic romantic relationship between Elizabeth Holmes and Sunny Balwani, whom she also teamed up with in business. If the subject is not very original, it still deserves to be recalled, to show that patriarchy poisons all social circles, without exception.

The Dropout is far from being a perfect series, suffering from lengths and a sometimes boring classicism. But this technological chronicle recalls the great hours of the film The Social Network with happiness.

The verdict

In 2003, Elizabeth Holmes unveiled her revolutionary idea: one drop of blood for thousands of possible diagnoses, thanks to a state-of-the-art medical device. Nearly 15 years later, the entrepreneur became one of the youngest billionaires in the world, before experiencing a spectacular collapse. Found guilty of fraud last January, Elizabeth Holmes fascinates the crowds today in The Dropout, on Disney+. The mini-series delicately paints his portrait and allows us to better understand one of the greatest frauds of the 21st century. The eight episodes do not revolutionize the genre and are sorely lacking in spice, but they are still worth the detour for the hallucinating performance of Amanda Seyfried (mank).

And if you prefer the satirical tone of Adam McKay (Vice, Don’t Look Up), know that he is also preparing his own version of the story: the film Bad Blood set to release on Apple TV+ soon, starring Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games) in the role of the golden trickster.

Source: Numerama editing

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