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Inventing Anna


‘…while Inventing Anna is a dubious proposition morally, it’s more-ish as a television spectacle…’

If their handling of movies is increasingly patchy, streaming giant Netflix at least make some good shows; Ozark is one of the most popular, and breakout star Julia Garner has found a role to eclipse that backwoods money-laundering drama playing ‘fake German heiress’ Anna Delvey aka Anna Sorokin. Her story has already been the subject of something of a feeding frenzy of exposes, memoirs and articles; getting Netflix to part with $320,000 for her story is the latest chapter in Sorokin’s exploits, although it’s not mentioned within the scope of show-runner Shonda Rhimes’s eight-part series.

Even that opening paragraph outlines some of the difficulties here; should Sorokin’s behaviour win her a cash reward, whether the money is used for restitution or not? And Inventing Anna plays into such issues, with plenty of bling and flash as it depicts Sorokin’s penetration of the Manhattan elite on the pretext of starting her own foundation. The series doesn’t hold many surprises, but it is utterly compelling in the way that it parallels Anna’s ascent with the hard-scrabble life of the (fictional) pregnant journalist Vivian Kent (Anna Chlumsky) who attempts to capture her story in print. Kent interviews those duped by Anna, including accountant Alan Reed (Anthony Edwards) and various grasping hangers on. Chief amongst these is Rachel Williams (Katie Lowes) whose maliciously maxed-out credit card led to the uncovering of the deception, and Sorokin’s subsequent incarceration.

Unlike The Wolf of Wall Street, which swallowed Jordan Belfort’s tall-tales verbatim, Inventing Anna makes a virtue of telling the story of the victims, most of whom take a while to wise up to being Anna’s marks. Kent digs deeper into who Sorokin was, her childhood in Germany, and how exactly she managed to pass herself off as one of the NYC glitterati. It’s also clear that part of this deception was achieved by evasiveness; the less people knew about Anna, the more willing they were to project what they wanted to see, which was largely a potential ATM from which they could enrich themselves. This gives Inventing Anna a compulsive quality; we keep watching in the hope of seeing Anna brought to book, but as she stalls her trial judge to get the right chic couture for her court appearances, it’s unclear if Anna was ever really sorry for the damage she caused to those who offered her their friendship as part of the transaction.

For all the glitz, and it’s undeniable, there’s also something grubby about the whole enterprise; by offering a ‘just the facts’ version of the story, Rhimes fudges exactly how we should feel about Anna, and it’s concerning that a large part of the show’s reportedly huge audience will inevitably see her as a heroine, taking on the establishment and carving out a legend for herself as an individual. Yet while Inventing Anna is a dubious proposition morally, it’s more-ish as a television spectacle, with Garner’s strangulated vowels and baby-talk complaints both distinctive and fun to imitate. Slick, detailed and hitting some dramatic heights in the final courtroom episode, Inventing Anna is oh-so-watchable, but moral questions remain about what the audience take-way from this story might be.


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    • It just endlessly repeats. Just started The Dropout and it seems alarmingly similar in telling a story about an unqualified young woman conning her way to the top and down again. Is anything else happening in the world right now?

  1. This was kind of odd. I got that she played into the greed of the high rollers abd managed to con all these vulnerable women as well but she was done for a relatively small amount compared to the gazillions stolen in giant scams. The over-acting drove me crazy. Nobody could say a line without their face twisting into every shape possible and eyes rolling like they were coming out of the socket. Anna was – is – of course barmy and no idea whether she knew she was working a big scam or felt she was entitled or what. The magazine politics were unbelievable – did anybody else do any work? And another big con – Netflix’s viewing figures – does anybody ever know what they mean?

    • I miss box office returns. At least you knew what was working and what wasn’t. Telling us that 8 zillion households watched 45 seconds of a show doesn’t cut it.

      The lack of a formal narrative was a problem here; zero authorial stamp, and most of the characters could be cheerfully switched. Over ten hours, pause at any point and Anna is promising something she doesn’t have to someone. Rinse and repeat. Chlumsky certainly overplayed, but I thought Garner’s weird performance was what made it; Anna was very easy to imitate, and the result is A She Wolf of Wall St. and yes, I think it was the late in the day wire fraud that did for her, not the forty million she never raised. The shots of Trump only made me wonder why his story isn’t being told and Anna’s is; New York looking like the city that welcomes the con right now.

      • You’d think the people who measured ratings for CBS/ABC etc could measure Netflix. For all the supposed top-notch investigative reporting in the US nobody can tell us where Trump got his money or Epstein or for that matter the Clintons.

        • As the New York prosecutors just found out, nobody in high places wants the truth to come out. But we did used to know which movies were hits. Now we just have to take their word for it. And YouTube can generate a billion hits overnight for a video with no viewers. It’s all smoke and mirrors.

  2. I’d watch this if it was a film. But my bar for investing in a TV series (especially a streaming one) has gotten sky high. Too many of these streaming series have an awesome first season, and then I’m stuck watching three or four additional mediocre seasons before they put it out of its misery. I never seem to be able to give up on them early even when it’s obvious all hope is lost. (Looking at you, Mrs. Maisel!)

    • I gave up on Mrs Masel in series 2, which feels like the right time based on what I hear. But I can’t see how Inventing Anna could come back; it’s a one-off and pretty addictive. That voice, that attitude, it’s a pop culture thing and I have a feeling it’ll stick with us as memes long after the show is over…

  3. I thought for sure you were going to praise this to high heavens. I guess even you can go beyond expectations. Good job! 😉

    Movies “based on real events” are always a turn off for me. To me, it comes across as a paucity of imagination on the writers/directors/whoever’s part in picking a story to tell in the first place. It’s probably a good thing I’m not a movie reviewer 😀

    • I think Garner is the big draw here, I hate to say it, but it’s an iconic role of our times, such as they are.

      Will look into the Tinder Swindler, did you lose much cash?

          • I never kiss and tell.

            Back on topic, I’ve been hearing lots of buzz about this show but wiki’d it and was sort of surprised that it’s been getting pretty blah if not bad reviews. Did you get conned?

            • Daily. This show is already a viewing phenomenon, and will only grow in stature. But there are some questions about the scope, and also the morality. But that potentially transgressive quality will make it very attractive to easily influenced people like myself. You are, I’m sure, made of sterner stuff.

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