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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 »
Like others, I followed the Theranos/Elizabeth Holmes story and in addition read the excellent book that investigative journalist John Carreyrou authored and published last year (Bad Blood).
It felt that the first part of this documentary was a hagiography rather than an incisive investigative documentary - the focus on the "female Steve Jobs" perspective dominated and she certainly seemed to have the same "reality distortion field" powers he had. However, having read the book my perspective was that she, and her boyfriend/COO Sunny Balwani were bullies (via lawyer David Boies, security guards and others) to their staff , associates and others and who benefited by manipulating otherwise smart, powerful people and taking advantage of their wishful thinking. Eventually the documentary got to the reality but it felt like a long time and frankly I found some of the interviews (eg with the respected behavioral economist Dan Ariely) to be somewhat ethereal and did not add value to the story.
I have been around start-ups and understand the notion of "faking it a bit" to get to the final "vision". However, to compare her to an Edison, a Jobs or a Musk was inappropriate. in terms of her ability to manipulate, tell brazen lies and intimidate I feel a much more appropriate comparison would have been Bernie Madoff.
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