‘Inventing Anna’ will suit any fan of Shondaland.

by | Feb 11, 2022 | All, Reviews

Inventing Anna is Shondaland at its finest. Which, for anyone that isn’t familiar with Shonda Rhimes’ epic dramas How to Get Away With Murder; Scandal; and Greys Anatomy means secrets; glamour; thrillingly tense dialogue and a fast-paced narrative that packs an emotional punch.

The series tells the true story of Russian-born convicted fraudster, Anna Sorokin; who between 2013 and 2017 pretended to be a German heiress by the name of Anna Delvey in order to defraud wealthy acquaintances, banks, and hotels. Inventing Anna takes a deep dive into the lie that was Anna Delvey via a news article by fictional journalist, Vivian Kent, who takes an interest in Anna and believes her story could be her big break.

The series opens with dynamic cut-scenes and vibrant hip-hop lyrics that give us a sense of our unreliable narrator almost immediately. And when we hear Julia Garner’s sarcastic German accent, we realise that she is a protagonist like no other.

A trademark of any Shondaland series is the complexity of Rhimes’ characters; and as far as complex characters go, Anna Sorokin is about as multifaceted as they come. As Sorokin, Ozark’s Julia Garner expertly toes the line between bratty, spoiled teenager and scheming, vindictive genius. Anna’s temperament is as unreliable as her storytelling, and Garner portrays this perfectly throughout – allowing us to peek behind the curtain of Sorkin’s façade slowly rather than all at once. And with each crack that begins to show, she builds the tension skillfully and gradually; until Anna’s entire image threatens to shatter.

This is what makes our relationship with Sorokin as an audience almost as complex as her friendships; because we simultaneously like her and hate her. We want to protect her, and yet we want her to face the consequences of her actions, and this is a credit to both Garner’s captivating portrayal and Rhimes’ powerful writing.

Each episode opens with “This story is completely true. Except for all the parts that are totally made up”. It is plastered on the backdrops of photoshoots; on the sides of buildings; on newspapers…anywhere that it is bound to capture our attention and remind us that this story – as enthralling as it may be, is littered with deception and misinformation. Despite these warnings, at times, you find yourself doubting that Anna is a fraud at all. The flashbacks of her former life are so vivid – the glamour, the expense, the lifestyle – that we almost start to believe it. And this only makes journalist Vivian Kent want to understand her even more.

Inventing Anna. (L to R) Julia Garner as Anna Delvey, Anna Chlumsky as Vivian Kent. Inventing Anna. Cr. Nicole Rivelli/Netflix © 2021

As Vivian, Anna Chlumsky is masterful in her storytelling; and her chemistry with Garner creates a powerful dynamic reminiscent of Killing Eve co-stars Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer. Their mutual fascination with one another threatens to burn Vivian out, yet she is willing to see it through, no matter the cost to her personal life or relationships. She wants to understand Anna, but she also admires her – her intelligence, her mind for business, her ability seemingly not to care what others think.

Chlumsky also has the added task of portraying Vivian’s desperation to get this story off the ground. The stakes are high – she needs this story to pull herself out of “Scriberia” (i.e. the corner of the office where banished writers go to die) and get herself back on the front page after a disastrous story. Chlumsky allows us to feel this, as well as the depth of Vivian’s disappointment at bringing a child into this world whilst still not having it all quite together yet.

The scene where Vivian expresses this to her husband is a standout moment of raw emotion in the series; portraying a depth of character and a dilemma that I personally have not seen in a series before – a pregnant woman torn between wanting to have a child, yet feeling that she should have achieved more before bringing a baby into the world. It is perhaps the most authentic moment in the series.

By the end of the first episode, it’s clear Vivian is more than capable of some manipulation of her own. By convincing Anna to reject the plea deal offered to her, framing it as an insult to her intelligence; Vivian manages to buy herself more time for her article whilst making Anna think that it was all her idea. It’s the first indication that they are more similar than the disgraced journalist realises; and before she knows it, she inevitably finds herself drawn to the same glamourous lifestyle that Anna was – borrowing designed kaftans and sleeping in millionaire’s mansions all under the guise of the story.

As complex as Anna is, the other characters in the series – much like Vivian – have just as much depth and distinctiveness to them as our title character. Rhimes never takes her audience’s intelligence for granted, holding us in as much regard as her cunning protagonist and determining never to dumb things down for our sake. She moves quickly and purposefully through the narrative and knows exactly what to show us to let us know who these characters are. Even after a quick, two-minute montage in the first episode, we’ve got the sum of them all.

The characters are vain; false, and almost entirely money-driven, so it’s no surprise to us that they fell in with a wannabe German heiress. But in order to fit into the realm of Shondaland, no character can be truly black and white, and these are no exception.

In the beginning, It’s hard to warm to Katie Lowes’ Rachel because she’s whiney and spoiled. The other characters don’t like her. However, Alexis Floyd as Neff, a modest hotel receptionist, quickly became my favourite character. She is charming, sincere, and decidedly humble even when thrown into Anna’s glamourous lifestyle. Her friendship with Anna is a genuine one – she respects and cares for her, and it seems that the feeling is mutual, as Neff is the only character that Anna ever repays. By episode 6, even Neff’s sincerity wears thin, and we find ourselves begging for her to see the truth and stop being so naïve; whereas I found myself genuinely feeling for Rachel as she finds herself at the centre of Anna’s tangled financial web. If there is one thing that Rhimes does best, it is deconstructing characters, and she does it with Anna over and over.

Initially, it is difficult to believe Anna is capable of everything that she is accused of. And yet as the story develops, Garner transforms Anna Sorokin into Anna Delvey before our eyes.

Anna Sorokin is biting, bitter, selfish, apathetic, and outright rude. She looks much younger, mousy and small. Her conversations with Vivian seem to lack the tact and control required for such a scheme. She goes straight for the jugular every time. Anna Delvey, however, is charming, seemingly level-headed, business-oriented, and indifferent. Even physically, she differs – blonde, glamourous, blue-eyed and elegant. She holds those around her – and the audience – in the palm of her hand, and she manipulates them expertly, though one puts up a good fight.

As Chase Sikorski, Saamer Usmani is your cliched wannabe entrepreneur – he has the looks and the big ideas but lacks both the head for business and the finances needed for anything to really take off. When he meets Anna Delvey, a supposed German heiress, he sees an opportunity – a countdown to a multi-million dollar inheritance that could be his if he only has the patience.

Unlike Anna, Chase’s manipulation is obvious, short-sighted, and poorly planned. Yet you almost feel sorry for her regardless, as we get the sense that perhaps she truly does love him. And as a result, while we are painfully aware that she is burning through his money like firewood, we can’t help but feel that she is the only one being manipulated here.

Perhaps this is part of the reason why we feel so drawn to Anna – we want her to succeed. She is an intelligent, talented woman trying to make her way in a man’s world, and while we may not approve of her methods, there is something so utterly satisfying about watching her put men like Chase in his place. And Rhimes’ sharp dialogue and thrilling narrative only add to this, making for some truly triumphant moments of revenge even despite the complexity of her character and immoral actions.

Shondaland prides itself on projects that centre around women in positions of power – whether that’s Viola Davis as headstrong law professor Annalise Keating in How to Get Away with Murder, or Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope in Scandal. While Anna Sorokin may not be the hero of her story, there is still a part of us as an audience that relishes in her success – particularly due to those that it comes at the expense of.

And there is no better example of this than sleazy businessman Conrad Lewis. As we see Anna growing more and more uncomfortable with his advances and looking desperately to Neff for help, we see that no matter her intelligence or money, she can still be rendered powerless by a man’s wandering hands.  This is the moment she feels her most relatable. I wanted her to rebel against the “f**king boy’s playground” that is business.

That is until Garner begins to unravel the glamourous yarn that she has spun for the world. It comes apart slowly at first, and within moments falls to pieces, and the control that Garner has over this process is remarkable.

It starts in episode 2 with Anna and Val being kicked out of their hotel room for lack of valid payment, and is shortly followed in episode 3 with an intense, venomous montage of voicemails that Anna leaves for Chase. It sees Garner switch from shrill screams to perfectly composed reasoning within moments. It is truly unsettling, though nothing more so than when she calmly states her intention to overdose on a bottle of pills if he doesn’t call her back – all while tucking into a bag of Doritos.

As chilling as this scene is, the moment that the Anna Delvey delusion is finally shattered takes place in episode 6 on a girls’ trip to Morocco. We have already seen her take things too far – overstaying her welcome on Hen’s boat; spending money she doesn’t have – but this is different. Morocco is the point of no return, and we feel as soon as the episode opens that things are spiraling out of her control. And we watch with dismay as she tries to pin it all on Rachel.

This is the lowest that we have ever seen her go, and in the scene in which Rachel tries to leave Morocco, her fear is palpable. Suddenly, it feels almost as though we are watching her attempting to flee her abuser. Garner and Lowes are quiet and understated in this scene, but their emotions speak volumes.

Though perhaps the most powerful scene of them all is of Anna playing tennis in her dressing gown whilst crying and drinking champagne. She is reduced to little more than a spoilt child that has spent all her pocket money. Yet she keeps it up all the same – telling Kacy she was mugged and needs a flight home; then threatening suicide if Kacy doesn’t let her stay. As an audience, we are left wondering if anything will ever push her to stop.

Over the course of the first six episodes, we witness the beginning, the invention, and the completion of Anna Delvey. Now, we are witnessing her complete and utter collapse; and the final three episodes promise to deliver this with all the intensity, emotion, and expertise of everything that came before it.

Inventing Anna is available on Netflix Now.

Megan Hyland

Megan Hyland

11/02/2022

Children and Young Person’s Worker by day; TV reviewer by night (and sometimes vice versa). Always searching for something new to watch but inevitably end up watching the same 5 comfort shows on repeat instead. I love all things Russell T Davies; Pheobe Waller-Bridge and Michaela Coel, but can also be found “ironically” enjoying binge-worthy reality TV such as Love Is Blind.

Tags:

Follow us:

Our Latest Posts:

0 Comments

Submit a Comment