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Jennifer Wells: The bizarre collapse of Theranos jumps to the screen, but the woman behind it remains an enigma

Jennifer Wells: The bizarre collapse of Theranos jumps to the screen, but the woman behind it remains an enigma
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“I realized there was something wrong with her mind … What is coming out of her mouth is not mapping onto reality as you or I know it.”

— Writer Roger Parloff in the HBO documentary The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley

Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes faces charges of defrauding investors, the medical community and patients.  (CARLOS CHAVARRIA / The New York Times FILE PHOTO)

Barring a last-minute scheduling change, on Monday afternoon Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes will stride into a state-of-play hearing in a California courtroom. Holmes, for the few who have not been following, faces charges of defrauding investors, the medical community and patients, as the multibillion-dollar Theranos unicorn turned out to be just that, by which I mean, mythical.

The scandal was so bizarre, by which I mean brilliant, that it has already led to The Inventor, a riveting Alex Gibney documentary for HBO, and an ABC podcast series, The Dropout, which will be made into a miniseries for Hulu with Saturday Night Live’s Kate McKinnon in the lead role. A full-fledged movie, with Jennifer Lawrence in the lead, is in the works.

It’s a bit of a pile on.

Here’s my thought: The great business stories that attempt to make the leap to, for want of a better word, entertainment, tend to feature women in supporting or broadly caricatured roles. I have previously cited a champagne-sipping Margot Robbie in The Big Short, explaining, in a bubble bath, mortgage-backed securities. (“Whenever you think subprime, think s-t!”)

The challenge ahead for the unreleased projects will be not in casting the male supporting roles.

It lies in cracking the psychopathy of Holmes.

No one yet has fully unravelled the mystery of a woman who imagined a system of fast, accurate and affordable blood tests that would change the medical world.
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