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Inventing Anna fails to do the deceitful mastermind any justice

Shonda Rhimes' latest venture explores how the Russian-born, German heiress-posed woman fooled New York high society over the course of four years

By Olivia Kiakides, Second Year, Theatre and English

Based on the true story of Anna Sorokin, or Anna ‘Delvey’ as she would have had us know her, Inventing Anna explores how the Russian-born, German heiress-posed woman fooled New York high society. Over the course of four years, Delvey managed to defraud hotels, banks, and her friends, of up to $275,000, until her arrest in 2017 and imprisonment in 2019.

This particular adaptation frames the story by investigating the fictionalised Vivian Kent (Anna Chlumsky), who is inspired by the real-life journalist who wrote the first ‘tell-all’ piece on Anna’s case. Kent attempts to uncover the truth of how Anna’s (Julia Garner) acquaintances were so easily deceived and taken advantage of and how she persevered within her lies for so long.

Courtesy of IMDB

Following the impressive feat with her adaptation of Netflix’s Bridgerton (2020), Shonda Rhimes takes the reigns of this story with an undoubted air of expectation. Overall, we are seemingly presented with the perfect ingredients for a gripping Netflix hit in the safe hands of Rhimes. Sadly, however, it leaves much to be desired.  

I will admit that my expectations were held in high personal regard from having thoroughly enjoyed a theatre adaptation of the same story last year, titled Anna X (2021), written by Joseph Charlton. In contrast to Inventing Anna, this recreation focused on Anna’s art school background and her alluring idiosyncratic nature, elevated by the bold lighting and staging choices. This play had a key element that Rhimes’ interpretation lacks- a captivating protagonist.

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Typically, characters strive for the sympathy of their audience, given that once this is achieved, the audience becomes invested in the character’s journey. However, Julia Garner’s portrayal of Anna was underwhelmingly indifferent. I was unconvinced of her masterful schemes and thus, struggled to bring about my sympathy, which was extremely frustrating for a character with so much deception, suspense and mystique, projected about her by the supporting characters.

Her supporting acts, comprised of the friends she misled, lawyers involved in her trial, and the journalists in charge of her story I found similarly troublesome. Many of these characters were indistinguishable and felt like ‘extra padding’ to help draw out this story over nine episodes (which could have easily been condensed into five, at most).

Courtesy of IMDB

Moreover, the tongue-in-cheek slogan that is snuck into every episode: ‘Everything in this is completely true except for those parts which are not’ attempted to master a double entendre, inviting the audience to question whether the stories presented by the writers are untrue. Furthermore, could the series be presenting Anna herself as our unreliable narrator, with her intent to drive and manipulate the story for her own gain?

However, I felt this feature only highlighted how far away the audience was being pushed. As a result, the episodes dragged on from the potentially gritty and exciting story of Anna Sorokin.

Courtesy of IMDB

As the series creeped to an end we were delivered with what can only be described as an attempted ‘girl boss’ moment, which instead ended up becoming a lacklustre revelation of a poor outfit choice, punctuated with a cheesy pop song and a courtroom full of unimpressed faces, inevitably creating a parody almost as bad as a Riverdale (2017-) episode…

Inventing Anna fails to truly be as sharp as it thinks it is, and as a result are never treated to Anna's exciting and mysterious characterisation the true story deserves.

Featured Image: IMDB

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