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Saturday, April 20, 2024
The Observer

‘Inventing Anna’: The girlbossification of Anna Sorokin

Image sources: Netflix
Image sources: Netflix

In 2018, a New York Magazinearticle dropped, revealing the sordid story of how one Anna Sorokin conned New York City’s elite out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. How? By changing her name to Anna Delvey and claiming to be a German heiress set to inherit millions from her trust fund. Netflix paid Sorokin $320,000 for the rights to adapt her life story into the Shonda Rhimes-produced “Inventing Anna.” This nine-episode miniseries manages to turn a life of intrigue into an overwrought slog that has nothing interesting to say about its complicated central figure.

Inventing Annafollows journalist Vivian Kent (Anna Chlumsky) as she assembles information for an article detailing the cons that led Anna Sorokin (Julia Garner) to be arrested. Meanwhile, Anna is held in Rikers Island jail complex, awaiting a trial that could land her in prison for 15 years.

With each new person Vivian interviews, we get flashbacks that showcase exactly how Anna managed to deceive New York’s wealthy elite. The show is at its best when the spotlight is on Anna’s deception. Garner plays a pitch-perfect Anna, managing to perfectly portray a compulsive manipulator even while doing a ridiculous European accent. Seeing Anna con her way into designer clothes and international vacations from the gullible rich is thoroughly entertaining.

However, the show drags when the focus is on Vivian’s thoroughly uncompelling storyline, wherein she attempts to write a career-saving article during her pregnancy. Vivian’s storyline is further dragged down by Chulmsky’s perplexing acting choices. Every time she’s onscreen, Chlumsky pulls exaggerated facial expressions to the point of absurdity, making it difficult to take her character seriously as a journalist. While the Anna-focused parts of the show are definitely the high points, they feel stretched thin over the nine episodes and aren’t enough to sustain interest. 

Although reveling in Anna’s callous and manipulative actions is undoubtedly the most fun this series has to offer, the series manages to undercut its greatest strength by attempting to justify Anna’s actions. The series tries to frame Anna as an underdog who worked her way up, but it doesn’t work when she constantly takes advantage of and degrades everyone around her. When Anna unsuccessfully attempts to scam multiple banks into giving her multimillion-dollar loans, Anna just makes platitudes about how difficult it is to be a woman in business. The worst part is that this isn’t satire. The show makes it seem like the main reason why getting a loan is so difficult is because she's a young woman with a silly accent, not because she can’t prove the existence of her trust fund (because it doesn’t exist).

The show tries to turn a grifter into some sort of a girlboss, and it strips nuance from Anna’s character. The last episode is especially egregious in trying to make Anna a hero for her manipulations. Despite being rude and condescending, everyone is inexplicably pro-Anna by the end of the show. Vivian laments that Anna won’t be a “millennial queen” after spending 12 years in jail. She asserts that Anna doesn’t deserve her sentence, as if being a girlboss is somehow an excuse for committing fraud. The show bends over backwards to make Anna sympathetic, but it only succeeds in making Anna (and the show) annoying.

On top of the mess of a story, the technical choices in the show make it all the more unbearable to watch. The series is edited like an ’80s music video with nauseating split screens and transitions between scenes. The pop music needle drops that this series can’t seem to get enough of are also nauseating in their obviousness. The first song played in this series is “Rich” by Megan Thee Stallion, but the soundtrack only gets worse. 

Overall, if you want to watch a show about evil rich people, watch “Succession” on HBO Max and don’t bother sitting through the nine hours of overblown nothing that is “Inventing Anna.”


Show: “Inventing Anna”

Starring: Anna Chlumsky, Julia Garner, Arian Moayed

Favorite episodes: “Two Birds, One Throne,” “A Wolf in Chic Clothing”

If you like: “Emily in Paris” 

Where to watch: Netflix

Shamrocks: 2 out of 5