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Inventing Anna is a bloated, unfocused melodrama that swings between condemning and championing its con-artist protagonist. Although protagonist may be a tad exaggerated here given an equal share of run-time is given to plucky investigator Vivian Kent.
However, despite its shortfalls, Inventing Anna is still a very watchable show, with plenty of style, swagger and hubris that makes it an endearing watch. The tagline flaunts at the start of every episode that “This whole story is completely true, except for the parts that are totally made up.” And to be fair, Inventing Anna does do a decent job of blurring the two together but damn does this show have its moral compass all over the shop.
For those unaware, Anna Sorokin (using the alias Anna Delvey) is a con artist that managed to hoodwink Wall Street and various “friends” into forking out hundreds of thousands of dollars. She cashed in fraudulent cheques, left some people in eye-watering amounts of debt and established herself as a rich heiress under the pretense of a €60 million trust fund courtesy of Daddy, stored in Swiss bank accounts.
Inventing Anna essentially tells this story from a slightly crooked angle. For most of the show, she’s presented as a martyr; an aspiration symbol of the good fighting back against the evil banks and corporations.
Other times (like in episode 6) Anna is heartless, cold and opportunistic. She’ll easily throw anyone under the bus, even if it’s one of her closest friends. And unfortunately this tonal whiplash consumes so much of this show that you never quite know what to make of Anna by the time the credits roll.
That’s not to say the whole endeavour is a waste of time, but it does feel like a waste of resources and effort, given Anna is still the same enigma by the end of episode 9’s almost hour and a half finale as she was at the start of her voiceover narration in episode 1, telling viewers that “this whole show is about me.”
Only, it’s not. Not really. As mentioned earlier, Inventing Anna spends a good deal of time with Vivian Kent, a plucky reporter that’s tarnished by a case-gone-wrong in the past. She’s desperate to claw her way back up to the top and after bemoaning “pointless” (her words, not mine) articles on the MeToo movement and workplace culture, she turns her attention to Anna Delvey instead.
Vivian is determined to get to the bottom of her story and figure out what drove her to defraud banks, friends and acquaintances. All whilst using this as the golden ticket to make it back into the big-time.
So the episodes that follow essentially flit back and forth between different characters, as Vivian moves from place to place and pieces together Anna’s whirlwind life and career. We see numerous different perspectives of Anna and how she was. Only, there are some occasions where those statements are then contradicted by Anna’s own version, complete with a rewinding tape effect that throws you back into the same scene again but with a different context.
This is something Inventing Anna does constantly, intent on keeping you walking that fine tightrope between liking and loathing Anna. Ironically though, you’ll find all of those negative emotions and frustrations leveled at Vivian instead.
You see, Vivian is heavily pregnant and almost ready to have her child. And she’s not happy about it. She constantly sees motherhood as this doom-and-gloom apocalyptic outcome, typified by an argument she has with her partner Jack about the nursery.
She fails to show up at scans (leaving Jack twiddling his thumbs) and she even ditches her newborn for a trip off to Germany in episode 8’s pointless Goose chase. It definitely doesn’t paint her in a very favourable light, and it’s not helped by the urgency around her case in the past that tarnished her. It’s distracting, and when it is finally resolved it’s done so with such little fanfare – in essence, it’s a narrative shrug of the shoulders – that you’ll wonder what the point of it all was.
Inventing Anna is one of those shows that thinks it’s more sophisticated and suave than it actually is. Unlike Anna Delvey looking and sounding the part, Inventing Anna tries to come at its subject matter with depth and a dark lens akin to The Queen’s Gambit but stumbles into the simplicity of Emily In Paris.
This isn’t an outright bad show but it’s not a particularly good one either. Shelf this one under basic with a capital B.
Inventing Anna releases this Friday 11th February worldwide on Netflix!
Verdict - 4.5/10