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The film's producer met with Elizabeth Holmes early in development, before criminal charges were filed, to determine whether she could be interviewed for the film. Ultimately the director decided he wanted to portray how Holmes carefully crafted Theranos and her own image to be seen by the public, up until the story unraveled. Accordingly, aside from brief footage from her deposition, all footage of Holmes seen in the film is from archival material from before she was charged, most of it her own commissioned promotional video for Theranos. Alex Gibney remarked "She made the documentary she wanted me to invest in and I used it to a different purpose." See more »
Very interesting, but still leaves some (possibly unanswerable) questions unanswered
I was struck by some of the similarities between this and an ostensibly very different documentary I recently watched, about the disastrous Fyre (music) Festival. In both cases, a young person managed to get older and supposedly wiser people to give them ridiculous amounts of money based purely on their chutzpah, while providing nothing in the way of oversight or verification in return. In both cases, everyone involved should have known better from the beginning.
I don't know the history of the production of this documentary, but there's a lot of very flattering footage of Holmes, so my guess is that at the heart of this, someone was working on a hagiography about her and then re-tasked the footage when things went South. This means you'll get your fill of her strange unblinking stare and weirdly affected voice.
I found very amusing that hordes of older men were quick to fawn over her (sometimes to an embarrassing degree) and support her financially, while the only person who didn't buy it was her female professor at Stanford. Is it possible these men maybe weren't thinking with their brains? I wonder (actually I don't).
Everyone compared her to Steve Jobs, and she consciously cultivated the image, but the thing everyone forgets is the Apple didn't involve any new or even challenging technology. No one doubted you could build a home computer. Jobs' genius was realizing people would *buy* one. In contrast, Holmes was claiming to have developed a revolutionary new technology that had eluded some of the biggest medical tech companies in the world, and everyone simply took her word for it with no evidence whatsoever. Imagine if instead of a computer, Jobs had claimed to have built a spaceship in his garage, and then rounded up investors without showing it to anyone. That's more like what Theranos was like.
The movie does a very good job of laying out the facts and the time line, but a central question remains unanswered; namely, when exactly did things go from "optimism" to "fraud"? Was it a scam from the beginning, or did she really think she could pull it off? Maybe that can't be answered by anyone but Holmes, and she's not saying. Even if you're very generous with your impression of her, the "adults" should have more realistic and looked out for things.
In the end, it's a cautionary tale from which I doubt anyone will learn anything.
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