I’m no entertainment snob. I consume all types of content outside my usual favorites. Sure, I prefer and spend most of my media time on genres like crime, psychological thriller, espionage, and courtroom. But I wouldn’t say no to a juicy, even trashy, piece of entertainment if I enjoy it. No shame.
Though I admit I sat down to watch Inventing Anna with high expectations, both because of Shonda Rhimes (creator and executive producer) and my previous knowledge of the case. I had already watched and heard a number of retellings of Anna Delvey’s cunning rise to New York’s elite and her subsequent fall from grace before the show was released. I wanted to know more.
For the uninitiated, Inventing Anna is a Netflix limited drama series inspired by writer Jessica Pressler’s New York magazine piece titled “How Anna Delvey Tricked New York’s Party People.” Julia Garner (Ozark) stars as fake German heiress Anna Delvey aka Anna Sorokin in real life, and Anna Chlumsky (Veep) plays persistent-to-a-fault journalist Vivian Kent. The 9-episoder explores the development of Kent’s what would be viral story and her relationship with Delvey/Sorokin.
I mean, where do I even start? I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s an abomination, no. It’s definitely not. Inventing Anna has some good points. It is glitzy, fun, juicy, heaping with drama, and gifted with an outrageous premise. I can’t help but feel, however, that there were many missed opportunities here.
Part of me wonders if this could all be intentional, just like how the aftermath of Kent’s article wasn’t quite what she intended or hoped for. She didn’t mean for Anna’s story to be a meme or the next social media obsession. She didn’t mean for the con to be glorified. Her piece was supposed to be a social commentary on the elite, their money, and the institutions that all seem out of our reach. Though the other part of me is convinced the show really did fall short on offering us more than just guilty-pleasure entertainment.
Inventing Anna constantly shifts focus between the two female leads, not allowing us to dig deep into the titular character’s psyche. I love a good newsroom drama, don’t get me wrong. But I was hoping to get to know Delvey/Sorokin beyond her heavily reported delusions, self-obsession, and over-the-top spending. Instead, I walked away feeling empty-handed and considerably annoyed. Again, it could be intentional, but did the characters have to be so…flat?
Inventing Anna is undeniably entertaining and watchable, yes. For those of us who can only try our best to imagine what it’s like to live among the top dogs, Inventing Anna is a palatable visual demonstration. I also won’t deny the schadenfreude evoked as I watched the ultra rich get scammed, although how much is real and how much is made up I can’t be certain.
Perhaps those are the reasons I stuck around for the whole program despite the mess of it all. The story, as milked and stretched out as it was, was still a fun, gliterry ride after all. Maybe I’ll just chalk this up to experience.