There’s a commonly held belief that the US is a place where a person of humble means can make their way to the highest echelons of power through sheer grit. This myth remains stable, despite being repeatedly punctured by events like the Fyre Festival, Trump’s presidency and this week’s college admission scandal. In Alex Gibney’s newest documentary, The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley, it receives another dent thanks to the incredible story of Elizabeth Holmes and the Theranos scandal. It’s the story of a woman who managed to procure millions for a blood testing machine that didn’t exist, a classic tale of connections mattering more than cognition. It inspired an award-winning book, Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou and is set to inspire a splashy Oscar-aiming biopic starring Jennifer Lawrence.
But unfortunately, Gibney finds himself unable to show why Holmes was such a compelling figure. Instead, the viewer is lost in an endless maze of dry re-enactments and footage from Theranos promos and interviews. There are some fantastic gets, like early investor Bill Draper who doesn’t believe that the fact he was family friends with Holmes had anything to do with his choice to fund Theranos, but there’s nothing like an actual thesis here. We are overwhelmed with data, often clumsily conveyed. In one scene, Gibney overlays an article about Theranos on still images of a laboratory, a completely un-cinematic way of sharing information that the film returns to again and again.
Holmes - Hovers - Film - Life - Moby
Therefore, though Holmes hovers over the film, we learn very little about her; as for her early life, we are told that she read Moby Dick and admired Thomas Edison, probably to serve Gibney’s argument that she was an Icarus shooting for the unreachable, but we are left wondering why we...
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