After its release on Feb. 11, Shonda Rhimes’ “Inventing Anna” has propelled to the top of Netflix’s Top 10 list in the U.S. Yet, whether it deserves its spot or not is up to debate.
“Inventing Anna” is inspired by the true story of Anna Sorokin, who was arrested in 2017 after a four-year scamming spree. Pretending to be Anna Delvey, an esteemed German heiress, Sorokin lived lavishly among New York elites, defrauding banks, hotels and even friends she acquired along the way.
Netflix paid Sorokin $320,000 to secure the rights to her story, but in 2019, the New York Attorney General’s Office invoked the Son of Sam law to sue Sorokin. Created in 1977, the law prevents criminals from profiting off the publicity of their crime. The money was instead used to compensate those defrauded by Sorokin. However, Sorokin still got paid as a consultant for the series.
The show stars Anna Chlumsky as Vivian Kent, a reporter chasing down the story of Sorokin as her trial unfolds. Kent is a fictionalized version of Jessica Pressler, the journalist that originally thrust Sorokin in the spotlight with an article in New York Magazine. Fighting for redemption after accidentally writing an untruthful story, Kent goes all out in pursuit of interviews with Sorokin and her friends. In real life, Pressler’s career was not on the line; she’d found great success with another article — one that would inspire 2019’s “Hustlers,” starring Jennifer Lopez.
Although she exhibits courage in the workplace, Kent is unethical, convincing Sorokin not to take her plea bargain so that she would have more time for her piece. Admittedly, the interactions with her elderly coworkers are humorous, as is her relationship with her husband. Yet, sometimes Kent’s persistence bogs the show down, especially when she’s missing pregnancy checkups to trail the story.
In turn, Sorokin, played by Julia Garner, is all flash, no substance. “Inventing Anna” does a great job showing just how much extravagance Sorokin surrounded herself with. We see fashion shows, yacht trips, mansions and hotels galore. Yet, we see very little of Sorokin’s personality beyond her obsession with money. Sorokin shows no remorse whatsoever — even in a jumpsuit at Rikers Island she’s begging Kent to get her access to the VIP room.
Moreover, most of Sorokin’s friends are still on her side, shockingly enough. Despite being bratty, high-maintenance and mooching off of just about every one of them, her friends shower Sorokin with compliments when talking to Kent.
Every episode begins with this disclaimer: “This story is completely true. Except for all the parts that are totally made up.”
But the issue with “Inventing Anna” is that it doesn’t invent nearly enough. It creates elaborate scenes depicting Sorokin’s luxurious lifestyle and scams. But truth be told, her scams don’t need more invention because, by default, they’re dramatic enough. Too much effort was channeled into illustrating grandiose experiences when viewers would have likely favored some backstory as to Sorokin’s family or life back in Germany.
Another fault is the show’s length. With nine episodes, averaging over an hour each, “Inventing Anna” is a massive undertaking. It’s far from unwatchable, but Sorokin’s character and motivation could have been better developed considering the sheer length of the show.
Rachel Williams, who was scammed by Sorokin while vacationing in Morocco, unexpectedly found fame for her association with the fraudster. Her book, “My Friend Anna: The True Story of a Fake Heiress,” was recently optioned for an HBO series by Lena Dunham. Perhaps it will be a better alternative to “Inventing Anna,” but Rhimes’ show will do for now.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars