The TV series Invent Anna either speaks of an enigmatic con artist who has worked her way into elite social circles and is said to have swindled millions of dollars in clothing, luxury travel and massive loans from some of the most powerful people and financial institutions in the world, or it’s the harrowing, yet charming story of the first alien to walk among us on Earth.
The journey to discover which is a walk, in turn, incredible but endless. It’s a binge-worthy journey. It is confusing. It’s unclear if anyone involved in this new series, from Shonda Rhimes and dropping to Netflix on Friday, had a clear direction. But also, also, maybe that’s the point. It is also not known if Anna did it herself.
Anna Delvey, also known as Anna Sorokin, posed as a German heiress and leveraged the legend of her wealth to ease her into the life of a 1 percenter, a world that does not l never questioned or the fact that she never left her credit card while running a tab due to her pedigree/alien status.
His untraceable European accent – German via Russian via Le Comte de sesame street– acted as a hypnotizing charm. The passive brutality of his cruel sides – the occasional, driving dismantling of the ego – mirrored the kind of adjacent human behavior that fascinated and unsettled people, and allowed him to manipulate people into doing his bidding/themselves. transport to her UFO where she would probe and persuade until they agreed to give her money.
Don’t let that be too misleading. Invent Anna isn’t some sort of sci-fi series, and chances are Delvey/Sorokin isn’t, in fact, a Martian. Probably. But she’s otherworldly in a way that has mystified everyone who’s had a close encounter with her, not to mention those who read about her plans after she was captured in the jaw-dropping film. New York magazine feature that inspired the new Netflix series and now we’re all watching it dramatized by none other than Shonda Rhimes herself.
But there’s something about the constant refrain that surrounds all things Anna Delvey, both then – “Who is she ??? – and now – “How did she get away with it?” – it means someone who defies human logic. Add to that the performance of ozark Emmy-winning Julia Garner in the role. Garner’s accent is outrageous, by design. Just like Anna’s. It’s a marvel of phonetics. She is an inventor of entirely new vowel sounds; master of an international dialect that until then had never even existed.
Delvey was a shapeshifter, but not just aesthetically. Of course, the hair is dyed. The wardrobe is designed to lure him to his next target. But his personality was equally malleable and unpredictable, often at odds with the mood of a room or interaction. The blurry line of performance and authenticity provided cover for the woman who became known as the “Soho grifter.” A lack of any sort of normality was his shield. And, as a TV series, it’s both Invent Annathe greatest gift and the most insurmountable obstacle.
The call of Invent Anna should be a no-brainer – the focus is on should.
A story of this shit and so tapped into the zeitgeist’s obsession with cons and cons is a surefire formula for streaming success. That’s what makes this story so confusing and, ultimately, a little disappointing. Perhaps drawing inspiration from the Anna Delvey phenomenon herself, he has only a cursory understanding of what he should be, or at least what audiences might want him to be. And at every turning point, he seems to be trying out a new identity, until the bitter end of his unforgivable episodes.
What Invent Anna going well is a certain, perhaps crude, appreciation of the savagery of these trickster stories. As Meghan Thee Stallion’s song ‘Rich’ plays, Garner-as-Delvey recounts: ‘This whole story, the one you’re about to sit on your fat ass and watch like a big hunk of nothing, speaks of me. This is how the series begins.
The blizzard of tweets that followed his arrest, brimming with shock and awe at the details of his case, flash across the screen. A montage of reports centered on the play “Soho crook”. The Voice of Anna continues: “You know me. Everyone knows me. I am an icon. A legend.” “Anna Delvey is a masterpiece, bitches! “Be careful. Maybe you can learn to be smart like me. I doubt. But you can dream.
A disclaimer, which will air in every episode, is displayed stating that everything you are about to see is true, “except for the made-up parts”. The following 10 episodes, almost all of which are over an hour long, tell the story of journalist Jessica Pressler who produced the New York magazine article “How Anna Delvey Tricked New York”, look back on Delvey’s glory days by pulling off her social climbing sleight of hand and, in its most fictional form, take the narrative beyond the Current State of Delvey’s Business.
“The topsy-turvy details of what Delvey did and the very real and devastating impact he had on those who were too eager to accept his false, intoxicating and, above all, unusual persona, never cease to amaze.”
The topsy-turvy details of what Delvey did and the very real and devastating impact he had on those who were too eager to accept his false, intoxicating and, above all, unusual persona, never cease to amaze. It’s the often aggravating drudgery of getting to those reveals — and, frankly, the false promise based on that bombastic, cheeky opening that seemed to telegraph a series far more willing to embrace camp than we’re being given.
A lot of Invent Anna is not centered on Delvey, but on Vivian Kent, Pressler’s replacement journalist played by VeepIt’s Anna Chlumsky. His once-promising tenure at manhattan magazine is tainted, in its mind, by an unfair media scandal. A juicy story like Delvey’s is an opportunity to salvage his reputation as a journalist. She’s also heavily pregnant, so she has a deadline to prove herself, a perpetually blowing joint unlike the more assured and flawed heroines Rhimes has given us in the past, from Meredith Gray to Olivia Pope.
Playing things off as a true crime story, with Vivian re-enacting how Delvey managed to get away with it for so long, would be nice and should be in line with the hottest trend in TV storytelling. But the depiction of journalism here jumps to the forefront of a long line of pop culture examples that reveal that Hollywood has absolutely no idea how journalism works – or, at least, assumes the level of lowest intelligence of journalists deserves to be contained.
There’s a whole rant to be had about it. The litany of obvious journalistic first steps that are portrayed as dramatic eureka moments is absurd. (In investigating a millennial socialite obsessed with how the world perceived her, Vivian doesn’t feel like she might start by looking at her Instagram.) Even the way the newsroom environment is described – colleagues often abandon their own assignments in order to work independently. searching for Anna and providing a treasure trove of discoveries to Vivian – is infuriating (a few co-workers said they had to stop watching the show because of this).
But for someone as adept at lassoing the devastating, emotional, and grounded stakes of the outrageous, soapy, and absurd as Rhimes reliably was, there’s a disconnect between the fantastical and lavish life that Anna lived, as we see her on screen, and the painstaking pursuit of piecing together the puzzle of her crimes. This is never successfully bridged in a way that allows you to fully invest in Vivian or Anna, or even fully understand their respective motivations. Maybe that’s to be expected with Anna, who’s supposed to be nobody’s enigma. Still, it’s strange to float between the extremes of these two characters and feel so empty about both of them.
It goes without saying that this is a larger-than-life story, and Rhimes gives it the over-the-top treatment: a massive production that screams “we’ve got Netflix money!” and, to repeat, inflated uptimes. But maybe the fact that this is in fact, life kind of got in the way.
In Shondaland, characters have had sex with ghosts, murdered hospitalized Supreme Court justices by smothering them with pillows, and demanded to know why your penis was on a dead girl’s phone. These same characters also tapped into some of the most intimate parts of their humanity to create powerfully universal moments. Invent Anna buzzes too faithfully along the middle line between these extremes.
Is it important? Apparently not at all.
Invent Anna will be a massive hit that will be voraciously consumed by the massive and devoted audience that clamors for so much scam and rip-off content that it seems like a veritable dam has broken in the genre. (The Dropout, Super Pumped, Joe versus Caroleand We crashed are all to come, satiating anyone who’s ever been through all the series on Fyre Festival, LuLaRoe, and the Tinder scammers who’ve already been cast.)
The series nods to that popularity, with a who’s who of your favorite disgraced crooks checked out in various episodes, like a Hall of Shame celebrity cameo. The more of these offerings we receive, and the more stylish tales of the main characters’ misdeeds are taken – not to mention the interplay of the real human impact of these sensational stories with our giddy desire to be entertained by them – the more a crisis of conscience, there will be.
Invent Anna deals with crucial themes of misogyny, privilege, consumer culture, toxic aspiration and media sensationalism. But, ultimately, it’s as inscrutable as our central alien character.