The Reel Review
Julia Garner (Ozark) stars in this limited Netflix crime series very loosely based on fake German socialite/con artist Anna Sorokin (aka Delvey), who defrauded banks, hotels and New York’s wealthy elite prior to her larceny conviction in 2019. The miniseries from Shonda Rhimes (Scandal, Bridgerton) examines how she was able to manipulate her victims as well as her relationship with the reporter who wrote about her.
At its core, Inventing Anna is about how a scammer was able to outwit a lot of unlikable people. Accurately capturing Sorokin’s bizarre, condescending German/Russian accent, the charismatic Garner leans hard into the campy role, with a deliciously fun, scene-stealing performance – and lots of fabulous clothes and settings. Among the supporting cast, Alexis Floyd (The Bold Type), Katie Lowes (Scandal) and Laverne Cox (Orange is the New Black) are all standouts as Anna’s friends, with Shondaland regulars Anna Deavere Smith (Here Today), Jeff Perry and Terry Kinney as the older New York Magazine writers in the publication’s “Scriberia” who help reporter Anna Chlumsky (Veep, My Girl) with her story.
Rhimes’ miniseries has all her trademark snappy dialogue and melodrama, but unfortunately, it can’t make up for a clumsy, unfocused approach to its subject and so many throwaway characters. Episode 6, set in Morocco, is actually pretty entertaining, as Anna’s grift starts to collapse in epic, frenetic fashion. But getting there is a real slog. The exhausting, nine hour-long episodes are at least three hours too long, and Rhimes’ odd choice to center the bloated story around the reporter and inject it with silly courtroom antics makes Inventing Anna a rare Shondaland misfire.
• This is reporter Jessica Pressler’s New York Magazine article about con artist Anna Sorokin.
• Julia Garner visited Anna Sorokin at Rikers Island prison as part of her research for the role, saying she found Anna to be quite intimidating, even with reporter (and series co-writer) Jessica Pressler present.
• Anna Sorokin was released on good behavior in February 2021 after serving just 18 months of her 4 to 12 year sentence. She was detained a month later for overstaying her visa and remains at ICE’s Orange County Correctional Facility in upstate New York where she is fighting her deportation back to Germany.