Vivian (Anna Chlumsky) is determined to prove her worth at New York Magazine. She becomes fascinated with the case of Anna Delvey (Julia Garner), an apparent Russian-German heiress who climbed through the ranks of New York’s social scene, all for it to fall apart when her conning schemes come to light.
‘Inventing Anna’ is the latest collaboration between TV legend Shona Rhimes and Netflix. Rhimes previously produced ‘Bridgerton’ for Netflix, but her latest has more of a feel of prior works like ‘Scandal’ and ‘How to Get Away With Murder’. With such an impressive line of credits – not to mention ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ – one would think this true story adaptation is in the right hands. Yet the production of ‘Inventing Anna’ feels rushed, its tone inconsistent, and frankly the episodes start to feel a bit repetitive.
It’s a cat and mouse game between Chlumsky’s Vivian and Garner’s Delvey, and Chlumsky proves immediately charismatic in the role, sweet and fiercely determined. As for Delvey, Garner’s first major TV role to follow her stunning turn as Ruth Langmore in ‘Ozark’, what you get is unexpected – in a good way. Sure she’s bratty, conceited and completely untrustworthy, but her lack of predictability is fascinating to behold. She’s got balls too, and you end up kind of loving her for it.
The investigative side of the story is fun, scandalous and thrilling, and it’s interesting to see it from the lawyers’ side too (though this perspective inexplicably fizzles out). Most episodes include a cheeky final twist, but it becomes increasingly obvious what’s coming.
It’s an interesting look at the power of clothes and self-presentation (a characteristic it shares in common, arguably, with its predecessor ‘Bridgerton’ and fellow Netflix series ‘Emily in Paris’). ‘Inventing Anna’ also has an interesting take on human psychology, as typically Delvey wins people over through having them project onto her. Alternatively she exploits some inherent flaw in their personality that has them believe in her. ‘Inventing Anna’ also purports that money makes people the absolute worst – so can we really demonise those just trying to get a slice of the pie?
Other notable performances in ‘Inventing Anna’ come from the likes of Laverne Cox, Katie Lowes, Alexis Floyd and Kate Burton. But one gets the sense that ‘Inventing Anna’ goes on for just a couple of episodes too many. It never quite makes up its mind about whose side it’s on and it gets increasingly silly and convenient in its claim: “This whole story is completely true. Except for the parts that are totally made up” (a statement that opens each episode).
'Inventing Anna' is streaming on Netflix now.