Whomst among us is not guilty of using filters on Social Media platforms to change our appearance? That is at the core of Inventing Anna: pretense, faking and reinvention. Granted, in this limited series from Netflix, this pretense is on a much larger scale.
There has also been a lot of (unfair) criticism directed at Inventing Anna. One reasonable criticism is the time required to watch it: the series runs perhaps two episodes too long, and could have been executed better in a more condensed context. However, there are also some intriguing and illuminating elements which make it worth investing time in.
With nine episodes in total, each running for an hour and sometimes longer, there is simply too much to binge watch. Allowing time for character development is one thing, but the series really strays from the subject (Anna Delvey) and flips back and forth in time unnecessarily. Following these paths that can be bewildering and make little sense: however, it is worth sticking with it. One reason to do so is that it has a weight of credentials and talent to carry something special off. Shonda Rhimes (Scandal, Bridgerton) is the showrunner, and it stars Julia Garner (Ozark) as the eponymous Anna and Anna Chlumsky (Veep) as reporter Vivian Kent. Add to this the mouthwatering supporting cast of Laverne Cox (Orange Is The New Black), Arian Moayed (Succession), and Terry Kinney (Billions).
Additionally, the subject matter makes it worthwhile. The real-life story of Anna Delvey is one which many may already know. With the media attention, and so much written about the ‘heiress,’ she is a character which was at one time difficult to escape. And Julia Garner recreates Anna with a particular emotionless charm. Yes, her accent is ‘wobbly’, annoying and really a put-off at times, but it is also spot on: and that’s the acceptable difference.
For the uninitiated, Anna Delvey is one of the most intriguing grifters of the last decade. To put it into perspective, she makes what happened at the ill-fated Fyre Festival look like a picnic, and its creator, fraudster Billy McFarland, an amateur. It’s worth noting he is in fact mentioned in this series.
Anna Delvey created herself through social media and, presenting herself as a German heiress awaiting her inheritance and trust fund. The confidence and indeed fearlessness she embodies to achieve and place herself in the midst of New York royalty is mind-blowing. And this series explores exactly how that was done.
Delvey’s real name is Anna Sorokin. Inventing Anna follows her as a young woman born in Russia who relocated to Germany with her family, where she was brought up in modest surroundings. She is also a fantasist who believed many of the fantasies she creates. She becomes a source of curiosity to reporter Vivian Kent, who is searching for repentance after being played as part of a high profile story of deceit. Delvey is Kent’s way back to prestige and so she investigates the German heiress, even while heavily pregnant. We feel her frustrations as she is continually stone-walled by Anna’s lies. And just when the truth is about to reveal itself, Sorokin brings down the shutters, remaining in character as Delvey.
As Kent, Anna Chlumsky injects an outsider look of disbelief, a confusion similar to our own. And she is the foil that brings the story together. And because it is fame and power Anna craves, even if that takes the shape of a circus-styled court case, there is a mutual arrangement between subject and reporter that serves each other’s needs.
Kent is, however, a character created for the series, which fits with the continual opening tagline -“This whole story is completely true. Except for all the parts that are totally made up.” This becomes a two edged sword because we get Sorokin’s side of the story in Inventing Anna, which may or not be completely correct given she has lied so frequently. And there is a fair portion of artistic license put forth by creator Shonda Rhimes. But the aesthetic pleasure remains enjoyable, similar to the themes of Bridgerton – sex, power and the pursuit of both.
Overall, Inventing Anna is slow but entertaining. You will enjoy finding out how close she was to building her empire and pulling off an insane scam. Also how those in power were and can be duped so easily. For fans of Inventing Anna, the real life Anna Delvey/Sorokin has signed up for a docu-series – again through Netflix. Any money earned from Inventing Anna ($320,000) by Sorokin had to be allegedly repaid under New York laws to her victims, and the con artist is currently in detention again (ICE) – due to her Visa running out. Expect interest to peak once more just as it did pre-pandemic, and ask the question: did society invent Anna Delvey, or did Anna Sorokin?
Inventing Anna is currently streaming on Netflix