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'The Dropout' so far: Amanda Seyfried stuns, plot remains interesting

Amanda Seyfried stars in "The Dropout" as Elizabeth Holmes in a nuanced, interesting performance. – Photo by Polygon / Twitter

The world seems to be fascinated by those who faked it until they made it. With recent releases like “Inventing Anna” and “The Tinder Swindler” on Netflix and Apple TV’s upcoming miniseries “WeCrashed” (about the rise and fall of WeWork), scammers’ stories appear to be all the rage.

Why are we so obsessed with people like Anna Sorokin (otherwise known as Anna Delvey)? What is it about these individuals that draws us in?

Following the release of the documentary “The Inventor: Out For Blood in Silicon Valley” in 2019, the 2022 fictionalized miniseries “The Dropout” follows a young Elizabeth Holmes (played by Amanda Seyfried) on her initial quest to establish and run the now infamous company Theranos.

The Hulu miniseries attempts to document every aspect of Holmes’ life, starting with her childhood and her passion to change the world, seemingly working up to her court trial (at the time of this article being written, the series is still ongoing). 

Holmes' corporation, Theranos, claimed they had developed technology that could detect multiple diseases with just one drop of blood, promising to revolutionize health care and make it more accessible.

While Theranos started out with good intentions, it quickly became one of the most notorious failed companies ever, as the miniseries details. Their devices did not work, and the company resorted to fraud in order to perpetuate this facade of success. Holmes and her collaborator, Sunny Balwani, made a ruthless duo and propped up a wall of lies to masquerade the inner chaos of the company. 

"The Dropout" employs a pretty standard story-telling technique, focusing on Holmes in the present while nodding to her more idealistic past. It attempts to cover as much of her life as possible, all while dramatizing a few elements in the process. Each episode is paced well and manages to tell her story in digestible chunks of information. While Holmes' story is a leviathan, it's simply too interesting to ignore. 

Seyfried stuns in her performance as the manipulative and charismatic Stanford dropout that is Holmes. From Holmes' piercing eyes to her artificially deep voice, Seyfried nails every single aspect of the character.

Every line is delivered with intention, and every gesture feels as if the viewers are watching Holmes herself in this series. Seyfried manages to lure the audience in and even feel sympathy, despite all the wrongdoing she commits as Holmes’ character. 

In addition to Seyfried, the supporting cast does an excellent job of adding to the story and creating an atmosphere of tension masked by false positivity. While some characters are fictional, like the graduate student Rakesh Madhava, they were likely inspired by real people.

Sunny's actor, Naveen Andrews, explained in an interview that he actually had to put on 25 pounds and use prosthetics for his sidekick businessman character. The supporting cast, like Andrews, not only served as the foreground characters but also enriches the show in every way by reflecting the audience’s emotions unto themselves.

The setting, costuming and cinematography all come together to perfectly replicate the drab, dull startup office in Palo Alto, California, where Holmes started it all after she dropped out of Stanford.

The same team manages to create this coldness and cult-like atmosphere of the new Theranos building, complete with all the quirky startup corporate fixings. The contrast of the warmer color palettes of Holmes' childhood with the colder, less empathetic colors as she begins her descent into becoming one of the most infamous CEOs in history is a simple, yet impactful detail.

So far, this show is a solid 8 out of 10. Seyfried shines like most have not seen her, in a role that is so unlike her usual upbeat, fun and friendly characters. Every element of this show contributes to creating a whale of a plot. "The Dropout" is a dramatized recollection of Holmes’ story, and I for one am extremely excited to see how the team decides to portray the rest of the series. 


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