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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.
Running a company 15 years, without anything working, and putting people's life at risk would expect me to believe they would dig deep down on how they operated this scam, and what's wrong with M. Holmes.
Nearly no profiling is done, nearly no dissection of the company 's internal power dynamics has been done.
They didn't even ask any of the employees if they ever believed, that they were up to something, or if it was an intentional scam all along.
Bothering me most is the portrayal of M. Holmes. Half of the documentary she is spewing here Steve Jobs Speeches, and in the end they even quote somebody, saying that she never intentionally went that route.
Come on, 15 years without anything working, faking voice, lying, deceiving, risking patients in cold blood for fame or money. This should have gone deeper, and not portray here as the naive kid which didn't get it done, but was well intention-ed.
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.
As for the rest, I got sick of an almost worship of this selfish woman. I agree with another about how major factors that went on at that company were left out of this documentary. The fact that her lawyers were threatening, stalking, and tapping her former employees, nearly crossed, if not crossed, the line in to harassment. If you want the real story, and not a lot of fluff, and an almost hero worship, read 'Bad Blood,' by John Carreyrou.
A 10 min google search provides more actual information than this needlessly long documentary filled with stock footage and a lot of promo footage apparently shot by Errol Morris. Maybe Morris can use all the old footage and make and actual documentary on the subject.
The film was directed by Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney and is in some ways a sequel to his 2005 film, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. Both films capture the rise and fall of scam companies in a manner befitting Greek tragedy. Perhaps The Inventor proves that a woman con-artist can be just as corrupt as a male one. Holmes's product was bunk, but she was able to convince powerful and well-connected individuals that her non-existent product was actually about to revolutionize health care. Her business model appears to be as corrupt and deceptive as Donald Trump's. The film is demonstration that a good salesman can sell almost anything to a gullible audience. She was able to raise hundreds of millions of dollars in venture capital to finance a product that didn't exist and was virtually physically impossible to achieve. Like all of Gibney's films, it is entrancing, and the two hour run-time flies right by. This is a fascinating film that not only tells the story of a corrupt company but actually capture many of the flaws of our modern business and political culture. Absolutely fascinating.
Visually this is a pretty clear and thorough depiction of the events. Clever blending of her walking around the office. It's nice to see the whistleblowers Tyler and Erika. And on the flip side Sunny Balwani the guy who helped sell the con.
Some faults. There are a few slower moments that could have been edited out. Some of the people who gave interviews were not that interesting. A lot of laughing by the interviewees. Too many shots of her scary stare, but she did blink once!
Looking forward to the movie with Jennifer Lawrence. It's good to watch this documentary before the movie comes out because movies can be confusing and it can be tough to figure out who is who.
The first hour is all setup of Holmes, and it could have been shortened by 45 minutes.
Editing is weak. Story is overly long due to repetition.
Not great, kinda boring, Gibney needs to start focusing on story rather than style. Also his style needs work. It's derivative, plain and dull.
Hire a new editor and story editor as well
PS. Sure it did make the point that Silicon Valley is good at making apps but not medical equipment but still, knowing how flawed her own idol is can tip you off. At least they did it almost well when mentioning Edison.
Elizabeth Holmes was brilliant at selling investors and motivating her employees with the promise of a breakthrough in blood testing, but she was woefully incompetent at building an engineering team or listening to R&D inputs. What she failed to understand is that while you can be boldly aspirational and even attempt to emulate the approach of your idol (in her case, Steve Jobs) down to his look, at the end of the day it has to be grounded in some semblance of reality. For Jobs, setting aside his massive personal flaws, he always had the ability to balance both of these things, and he always had a strong counterpart, starting with Steve Wozniak early on. Where was Elizabeth Holmes's Woz? It's telling that other than a brilliant scientist/PhD from Cambridge who was marginalized when he started injecting unpleasant truth into the discussion (ultimately leading him to commit suicide), there is no mention or interview with a VP of R&D, or VP of Engineering here. Instead we see the President, and ex-Apple guy who was also her boyfriend, operating in the same smoke and mirrors sales act as her, as well as one of the company's creative marketing / brand types. There was never any "there" there, as they say, with the result being a constant game of "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain" that snowballed.
How Holmes was able to deceive a number of powerful, older men, and then leverage that to achieve great visibility, further investment, and the Walgreens deal is pretty shocking, even by Silicon Valley standards. I've lived in the Valley for some time, and have experience with start-ups, investors, and entrepreneurs. There is often a grand vision and the joke is like that old cartoon with the calculation at the blackboard, with the step drawn at an impossible leap labeled "then a miracle occurs." There is also always going to be investor money lost in a number of startups and that's just a part of the risk - but what makes this story reprehensible is that people's health was on the line. Perhaps one thing lacking in the documentary is an interview with people who were negatively impacted, such as one woman whose bogus test results indicated she had cancer.
The young employees at Theranos understood the human factor, with Tyler Schultz pointing out (perhaps a little too glibly) that with their 65% success rate at detecting syphilis, someone could think they were STD-free and spread the disease. Holmes never seems to get this, and to the bitter end she continues lying. I thought the documentary showed remarkable restraint in not drawing a conclusion, and even showed someone say that he thought she simply dreamed it so deeply that she didn't realize she was being deceptive. I don't buy that for a second. Aside from being an awful executive, she's an awful person, and to me comes across as a master manipulator and borderline sociopath, one cloaked in the altruistic goal of revolutionizing health care. In the end she's not stretching the truth with the aim of making this thing happen, she's lying to save her own skin. It's a chilling, chilling portrait.
With their access and budget, there is No big shot , hard questions interviews with 1. those that lost money 2. those that are suppose to regulate 3. who is culpable for the next scandal to come about ? ( note that no one gets jail time for all these scandals about bad joint/gyneo/hip implants which has been happening year-in year-out ) 4. why are all the press whom fawned and promoted this company gets away with no censure?
Boring stuff , and a waste of time
Couple of comments: this is the latest documentary from Alex Gibney, whose 2013 "The Armstrong Lie" is just one of his many outstanding films. Here he looks at Holmes and Theranos. Can the two be separated? It'd be difficult to do so, as it almost feels like Holmes built a cult of personality within Theranos. When a company grows so spectacularly and then implodes with an even greater bang, it always makes for fascinating viewing/reading/studying. Gibney seems to have gone all out in interviewing the relevant characters, including journalists and ex-employees. And then there is former Secretary George Schultz, now in his 90s, and still going strong. He introduces Holmes to his grandson, who ends up working at Theranos and see it all go wrong. Wow. The movie also benefits from the inclusion of the interview of a behavioral economist, who puts it all into context. At the beginning we are told this is a cautionary tale, and that it certainly is, but it's a lot more than just that.
"The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley" recently premiered on HBO and I finally watched it on demand the other night. I have a soft sport for non-fiction in general, including in films and in books. As soon as I saw the name Alex Gibney associated with this, I was pretty sure that this would be worth checking out, and I was right. If you love documentaries, I'd readily suggest you check it out, be it on VOD or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray, and draw your own conclusion.
Theranos is/was a company in silicon valley founded my a Steve Jobs superfan and emulator. Talent is in no short supply with Elizabeth Holmes, and aspirations were such a part of her personality that she was able to recruit men who is or were world leaders. Secretaries of state, secretaries of defense, Marine Corps Generals... And the technology was as groundbreaking as it was revolutionary. A finger prick at Walgreen's and a capillary blood draw - luttle more than a spot of blood fed into a miniature test tube and then into a machine about the size of a microwave, and it can test your blood for 50 different maladies. Excuse me 100 different maladies. Oops I meant 200. The number is 250. 250 different illnesses and diseases. See where this is going? How was this woman able to invent machines and technology that were SURE to change the way healthcare would be experienced from here on out? How did she do it, you ask? Apparently she didnt. One thing led to another and another until the wheels began to fall off Remember, this is potentially a disaster of epic proportions, this compact revolutionary machine that had the industry salivating was advertised to diagnose the health of any person that walked into any Walgreens. STD's, cancers, diseases, etc. And when employees stopped and thought about the potential consequences, they started to whisper. At that point the hierarchy was just as paranoid as the employees who were beginning to spill the beans. Next toss in the public at large who now had a justifiable reason to be concerned and pissed off, a fortune 500 company who began backing away from a commitment to install this machine in scores of locations across the country, investors, reporters, lawyers.... And then it got spooky! There are mysterious men following people, others wouldnt trust any phone that wasn't a "burner" that couldnt be tapped and could be jettisoned later, and even then much of the information passed back and forth on them was somehow compromised by these scary executives and lawyers. World renowned lawyers. There was a suicide. Restraining orders. Litigation. Physical assault. Family members at polar opposite ends of the spectrum. It feels like you've hopped into a John Grisham novel only even he couldnt fashion this type of suspense!
The movie and its storyteller are realistic up front that the material you're going to be asked to envision is technical and even boring - but hang in there! And to make sure you do, we're going to give you plenty of visuals of the attractive founder and a few crumbs. As the film moves along you are a bottom of the totem pole new hire, and you get the sense that you are learning and moving up in the company. In order to stun you with the eventuality that is coming, you get a base education of the material and the director and editor are masterful at informing the viewer with visual aids and techniques and analogies. Once you are a bit invested, they set the hook. You had me at blood draw!
From that point on its riveting from several perspectives: the deception that was going on, the absolute defiance of those parties involved in communicating the misleading information, and, most definitely and my favorite, the way the directors created suspense - actual real live suspense - in a documentary! It's TRUE! I was biting my nails and constantly checking to see how much longer it would run because I really truly did not want it to end. In fact after I finish this review I'm going to do two things: search the internet for any more information on this whole event, and looking up anything else this director has made.
This is as much a work of art in storytelling as it is a thrilling story. Of course, perhaps the former helped uncover the latter. See it, be informed and entertained from it and learn from its story telling techniques. You can thank me later.