The Dropout Review 2022: Another Mind-Blowing Portrait of a Great American Fraudster
The Dropout Review 2022: We barely had time to breathe after the whirlwind romance of Anna Inventing Anna, the story of super-grifter Anna Sorokin, who transformed an innate understanding of upper-class etiquette into a life of abundance among New York’s wealthy elite. (Until they found out they were funding it).
Now we have The Dropout (Disney+), the story of Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of the medical company Theranos, the other great female fraudster of recent years. It claims it has developed technology that will revolutionize blood testing, and with it it is a large part of the US healthcare system.
In 2015, Forbes named Holmes the youngest self-made female billionaire in the country, when Theranos was worth $9bn (£6.75bn).
Once rumors of a fraud began to spread, his downfall was accelerated. He is now out on bail awaiting sentencing for wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. (The Dropout Review 2022)
Unlike Inventing Anna, who was a heady, soapy mob who enjoyed the glamor of her protagonist, and wasn’t too bothered by any need to investigate her motivations,
The Dropout plays it straight. Probably pretty straight forward – there are times when a little carelessness as an impossibility wouldn’t go wrong – but all in service of a story that blows your mind as wide as Sorokin’s.
The storytelling is largely linear (a major relief after Anna’s usual fashion for importing tension via flashbacks and flash-forwards instead of back-and-forth exploration and actual writing).
And so—aside from the brief opening scene of making a statement before the test—we first meet Holmes as an 11-year-old kid, running so slowly in a race that the rest of the runners wait at the finish line. gather while the teacher asks him to leave. That, not at all.
There we have the essence of our antihero and this is an eight-hour miniseries. One is determined to succeed, the other is determined to make their messages clear every step of the way. (The Dropout Review 2022)
See also: Mother painstakingly portrayed as autistic and cold; The father is a better, but louder vice president at scandal-hit accountancy firm Enron. It hits every traditional beat:
mapping the origins of Holmes’ special interest (fear of the mother’s needles); A montage of rejection as she tries to get her initial money; Disaster is just around the corner in the lab as the last potential investor;
Her mesmerizing walk into the room as she arrives at her first luxury hotel suite as CEO (never mind that Holmes was from a wealthy, well-connected family and we can safely assume, Well used for hot water and gathered curtains).
So the Dropout is a lumberjack animal, but is saved by two things. The first is that it’s such a good story that you have to hit it with an actual hammer to kill its charm. (The Dropout Review 2022)
Because – I’m sorry, did I say no? Small details, often slipped through the mind of the inventor – the technology did not work. Not properly. It worked out in small ways at times, just enough to give hope to those involved,
But crucially, not on the day they showed it to investors. Holmes faked the results that had apparently sprung before him. There was no going back.
Its second savior is the solid cast, led by Amanda Seyfried as Holmes. It’s a highly skilled performance (before it has to pull off Holmes’ famous vocal development), which manages to balance all the disparate elements of a woman who, by all accounts, has been a pretty weird mix.
She was clearly clever but slow to grasp the value of “soft” skills, blunt but charming, hyperfocused but chaotic. Seyfried does all this work and takes care of us – (The Dropout Review 2022)
Even our sympathies—in the form of Holmes’ desperation to make a name for himself and prove that his intelligence and drive are something tangible—slip back and forth in corruption and lies.
Along the way, the show touches on issues that may have prompted Holmes to act in her way — constantly proving herself on par with the men at Stanford University, the Silicon Valley tech bros facing off,
A manipulative old man is caught with, Sunny Balwani (played by Naveen Andrews). But that doesn’t take away from the fact that there was really only one person who built Theranos –
Virtually nothing, as it turned out – and that brought down all of its $9bn. (The Dropout Review 2022)