REVIEW: ‘Inventing Anna’ Is Way Too Messy, Even By Soap Opera Standards

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Inventing Anna - But Why Tho

Inventing Anna is a Netflix Original Series created by Shonda Rhimes, based on the New York article “How Anna Delvey Tricked New York’s Party People” by Jessica Pressler. Vivian Kent (Anna Chlumsky) lands an interview with Anna Sorokin (Julia Garner), whose long life as a con artist has finally caught up with her. Kent starts to unravel Sorokin’s dual life as socialite “Anna Delvey,” with the series slowly revealing how Sorokin climbed her way to the top.

This series marks the second TV show released under Rhimes’ Shondaland banner, and the first Netflix Original she created after the hit period romance Bridgerton. I freely admit that Rhimes’ previous work, including Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, never grabbed me and felt a touch too outlandish. Moving to Netflix seems to have increased those storytelling impulses, and not for the better; the final two episodes, which take place during Sorokin’s trial, feel like they’re desperately trying to ape Aaron Sorkin and end up feeling more like Sorkin’s work on Being The Ricardos than his work on The West Wing.

A large part of the melodrama comes from Chlumsky’s performance as Kent, who is juggling a journalistic career with marriage and an incoming baby. In a case of art imitating life, Pressler, who also serves as an executive producer on Inventing Anna, was pregnant at the time she wrote her article. Chlumsky, usually a grounding force in shows like Veep, chews more scenery than Nicolas Cage and Jared Leto combined; her facial expressions, in particular, are a thing of hilarity. Every time she looks angry, her face scrunches up in a way that suggests a case of bad diarrhea. The rest of the cast outshines her—particularly Laverne Cox as trainer Kacy Duke, who has some interesting views on how the universe works, and Arian Moayed as Sorokin’s lawyer Todd —aka one of the few people who is able to put up with her nonsense.

Garner fares slightly better as Sorokin/Delvey, despite an accent that sounds even worse than Kenneth Branagh’s villain in Tenet. Throughout the series, everyone she swindled tells their own stories, leading to a Rashomon-esque narrative that shifts depending on who’s being interviewed. In particular, the seventh episode, “Cash on Delivery” is insanely tense as Sorokin takes a vacation in Morrocco and leaves one of her so-called friends, Vanity Fair photo editor Rachel Deloache-Williams (Katie Lowes) on the hook for the bill. Unlike other true crime stories, especially the multiple ones about Ted Bundy, the show never tries to sympathize with or humanize Sorokin. Whenever someone tries to call her out for her actions, she flips it back on them with thinly veiled insults and claims about how she doesn’t have time to deal with their problems. Even in her trial, her concern is less about her sentence and more about the dresses she wears to said trial.

It’s too bad that it takes the series so long to get off the ground. Inventing Anna clocks in at nine episodes, with each installment pushing an hour or longer. This leads to the dreaded “Netflix bloat,” where it takes forever to get to a major plot point. This issue has plagued a lot of Netflix series, including the holiday-themed Christmas Flow. It seems like creators take the looser restrictions as an example to embrace all of their storytelling indulgences. Suffice it to say, Inventing Anna would be better if it was half the length and if it cast a different actress as Kent.

Inventing Anna is an overwrought, overlong mess, with writing and performances that feel too over the top even for a soap opera. The series had a glimmer of potential, but Rhimes and her team failed to capitalize on it. As a better alternative to this show, I suggest either watching The Journalist or waiting for the second season of Bridgerton.

Inventing Anna is currently available to stream on Netflix.


Inventing Anna
  • 5/10
    Rating - 5/10
5/10

TL;DR

Inventing Anna is an overwrought, overlong mess, with writing and performances that feel too over the top even for a soap opera. The series had a glimmer of potential, but Rhimes and her team failed to capitalize on it. As a better alternative to this show, I suggest either watching The Journalist or waiting for the second season of Bridgerton.