Well you may remember that I read Bad Blood last year. And a few months back I watched the documentary about Elizabeth Holmes when it came around on Sky Documentaries. And then when I went to visit a friend for the weekend the other month, we watched the first seven episodes of The Dropout back to back – and would have finished it if that final episode had been available. And I currently have a Disney plus subscription so I’ve finally been able to finish it. And now I have thoughts!
In case you’ve forgotten, Elizabeth Holmes was the person behind Theranos, the medical start-up unicorn that claimed it was going to revolutionise diagnostic blood tests with its technology that could test for pretty much anything and everything using just a tiny finger prick sample of blood. Except as the John Carryrou book reveals, the technology never really existed the way they said it did, and the tech they had made didn’t work either. But Theranos still managed to raise billions of money from investors before it all came crashing down. Spoiler alert: Elizabeth Holmes and Sunny Balwani will be sentenced in the autumn, after they were convicted (in separate trials) of deceiving investors.
The Dropout is the dramatised version of the rise and fall of Elizabeth Holmes – from her days at university through to the implosion of Theranos. As you can probably tell by the fact we binged it in one night, I really enjoyed it! Obviously we will never know what the actual conversations were between Holmes and her then partner Sunny Balwani, but the writers of this have had a very good go at it – it’s like the most gripping and bonkers docudrama you’ve ever seen.
As you see from the trailer, Amanda Seyfried plays Elizabeth, which is a tricky task given the prominence Holmes had when the company was riding high and the personality quirks that she had like the strangely deep voice and her Steve Jobs wardrobe. But she’s really, really good. And she’s got the Emmy nomination this week to show for it. Naveen Andrews plays Sunny, and makes him a really intriguing character – more so than you might expect if you were told it was an older man in a relationship with the much younger woman whose company he is helping to run.
And we really enjoyed dissecting how they portrayed the leading characters. If this were a Reddit Am I The Asshole question, the answer is pretty much ESH – everybody sucks here – with the exception of a couple of the scientists and lab workers. Just a warning though, there are obviously real life impacts of the Theranos saga – the people who got the wrong results from their tests, but also the workers who tried to speak out and stop what was going on. And if you haven’t read the book, I suspect one particular even will make you really sad. I knew it was coming and it was still bad.
So, if you need something to binge watch and you currently have Disney +, then this might be a good way to pass a weekend. I really want to watch it again already.
Have a great Sunday everyone.