In 2018, an article in New York Magazine told the true tale of one Anna Sorokin, who posed as a rich heiress named Anna Delvey and ended up hoodwinking the city’s social scene, luxury hotels and financial institutions.
It’s a story that’s as unbelievable as it is irresistible. Within the same year, Netflix and Shondaland – the production company founded by “Grey’s Anatomy” creator and “Bridgerton” producer Shonda Rhimes – purchased the rights to journalist Jessica Pressler’s article and Sorokin’s life story.
On Feb 11, Netflix released “Inventing Anna”, its adaptation of the Delvey affair. The limited series, spanning nine episodes, focuses on Vivien Kent, a journalist loosely based on Pressler, as she attempts to uncover the truth about the devious socialite.
Each episode focuses on one person who found themselves entangled in Delvey’s lies, including Neff Davis (Alexis Floyd), a concierge at a hotel where Delvey stayed, and Rachel Williams (Katie Lowes), an acquaintance who ended up footing a US$62,000 bill from their trip to Morocco.
But the real stars of the show are Julia Garner as the fraudster Delvey, and Anna Chlumsky – who audiences might remember from the ’90s film “My Girl” and her Emmy-nominated turn in the political sitcom “Veep” – as Kent.
Laser-focused and brimming with determination, Chlumsky is absolutely endearing in the role – even with her scary intensity. As the story unfolds, the reason for Kent’s doggedness is eventually revealed: she had previously lost a prestigious job offer due to an article that had gone wrong.
Chlumsky’s realistic portrayal of a woman wanting to redeem herself – and one who is pregnant, to boot – draws viewers in to root for her.
Meanwhile, Garner nails Delvey to a tee. Clad in designer clothes and armed with an haughty demeanour, the “Ozark” actress offers a glimpse into how the real Anna managed to fool New York’s elite, demonstrating an enticing mix of style, charm and frosty allure.
As Val, a character played by James Cusati-Moyer, puts it: “She didn’t care what other people thought, and she wasn’t interested in anybody else but herself. And she was mean. I was dying to be her friend.”
Sadly, what the series lacks is screen time devoted to the title character herself. By the end of the nine episodes, viewers are still left with the burning question: who, really, is Anna Delvey, this unbelievably confident person who took “fake it till you make it” to a new level?
Is she delusional? A compulsive liar? A criminal mastermind? Or simply a young woman with an astounding amount of self-confidence to the point of narcissism?
Repeated in each episode are the words: “This whole story is completely true. Except for all the parts that are totally made up”. Alas, sensationalism is one thing; frustration is another: it leaves viewers scrambling to find out more about what is real and what is not.
Numerous websites have since attempted to uncover the truth about Delvey and what drove her to her schemes. Did she feel the need to be different from everyone else, to stand out? Did the glitz of New York’s high society get to her? If so, why? Why??
Infuriatingly, the show fails to give solid answers, or wants the audience to come to their own conclusions.
Despite all this, “Inventing Anna” is a binge-worthy show for those looking to get caught up in a world of glamour, designer clothing, and people who are driven to extremes.
And perhaps, in blurring the lines between truth and fiction, the series allows the real Delvey to be where she aspires to be: the subject of everyone’s conversations.
‘Inventing Anna’ is streaming on Netflix.