Creator: Shonda Rhimes
Stars: Julia Garner, Anna Chlumsky, Laverne Cox
When “Inventing Anna” taps into what made New York City con artist Anna Delvey (née Anna Sorokin) such a fascinating flashpoint, it’s easy to get sucked into its orbit. When it gives the actors enough meat to sink their teeth into, it can be as fun a distraction as Anna’s wildest nights were for the various sidekicks she picked up on her path to true notoriety. But like her inscrutable anti-heroine (played in an even more inscrutable accent by Julia Garner), Shonda Rhimes’ new Netflix series becomes a more frustrating knot of contradictions the more you try to unravel it.
Retelling Delvey’s raunchy and undeniably delicious story of beating Manhattan’s power players, the limited series is at its best when weaving through “Scandal”-style banter, but also weighed down by oppressively long episodes. (The shorter clocks are 58 minutes long, while the finale is almost a full hour and a half. I can’t tell you why the show didn’t turn its nine rambling episodes into a more succinct 10.) Aided by Netflix’s On a Seemingly Generous Budget, it spares no expense in its portrayal of staggering wealth, yet still retains the flat cinematography of a network drama that cuts corners. The strangest and most damning thing of all is that the entire series revolves around Anna’s relationship with the journalist who puts her on the map, a specific and limiting narrative framework that she only ends up working against her.
Based on Jessica Pressler’s 2019 New York Magazine story, “Inventing Anna” casts Pressler as Vivian Kent (Anna Chlumsky), a writer who shares enough characteristics with her inspiration: a drive to prove herself beyond of a past journalistic error, a pregnancy at an inconvenient time. but she also distances herself enough that the show can dramatize her dynamic with Anna as more akin to Clarice reaching out to Hannibal than a reporter doing her job. (Each episode begins with a disclaimer that the show is true, “except for all the parts that are totally made up,” a disclaimer that proves especially important for the last two episodes that describe Anna’s conviction beyond publication from the article). It stands to reason and history that Rhimes would want to put a deeply flawed career woman at the center of this series, the first she has created for Netflix, thus following in the footsteps of Meredith Gray (“Grey’s Anatomy”) and Olivia Pope (” scandal”). Unlike Ellen Pompeo and Kerry Washington, however, Chlumsky struggles to fit into the specific cadence Rhimes’ dialogue requires, and instead doubles down on an oppressive acidity that whitens the bite of each sentence.
By the time we met Vivian, her braggart her editor her Paul (Tim Guinee) had banished her to “Scriberia,” a remote corner of “Manhattan Magazine” populated by older writers with little patience for the younger millennial cohort. flashy of her. Played by Terry Kinney and Shondaland alumni Anna Deveare Smith (“For the People”) and Jeff Perry (“Scandal”), this Greek choir of jaded writers keeps both Vivian and her story afloat, without pushing her so gently. in the right direction when your basic journalistic instincts seem to have gone on vacation. But the cantankerous inhabitants of Scriberia can’t do everything for Vivian, so she keeps hurtling down her own path, losing her way and yelling at her husband (Anders Holm) as she chases the most obvious conclusions. .
Vivian’s dogged search for the truth behind Anna’s facade is what’s supposed to drive the entire series, but it’s hard to root for her when a source has to remind her that Anna’s Instagram could be helpful, or when she’s staring at a wall. of selfies and wonders. before Anna’s audacity to mark the different stages of her life with different hair colors. (Trust me: You don’t have to be a con man to dye your hair in a time of crisis!) And while the show insists that Vivian’s determination to get the truth is all-consuming, it never comes up with a satisfying answer. like what. Sure, Vivian yearns for redemption. Yet of all the stories she could have chosen, why choose Anna Delvey’s? What are Vivian’s real news interests, aside from reporting in general? To have Pressler on hand as a producer, “Inventing Anna” has a surprisingly vague understanding of the pivotal character she is based on.