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The Daily Tar Heel

Column: Reviewing Netflix's "Inventing Anna"

Julia Garner in "Inventing Anna." Photo courtesy of Aaron Epstein/Netflix/TNS.

I first read the story of Anna Sorokin — alias Anna Delvey — while on the elliptical. Sorokin, a German citizen born in Russia, passed herself off as a German heiress while living in the U.S. between 2013 and 2017. 

During that time, she enjoyed drinks, clothes, meals and stays in some of New York’s most expensive hotels, and even flew on a private plane — all while making excuses to avoid paying the bill. 

Anna was later convicted of attempted grand larceny, larceny in the second degree and theft of services in 2019. To this day, she remains in prison. 

Shonda Rhimes’ new Netflix limited series "Inventing Anna" tells the story of Anna, her family and friends in nine hour-long episodes. The show, which has remained No. 1 on Netflix since its release on Feb. 11, is based on Jessica Pressler’s New Yorker article “Maybe She Had So Much Money She Just Lost Track of It” and the input of many of the real-life characters depicted in the series. 

The series is soapy, dramatic and riveting. It's exactly what I’d expect from a Shondaland production, but it’s also an emotional rollercoaster. Viewers find themselves torn between disgust and sympathy for Anna herself and for the people she tricks. 

We wonder if Anna really believes her own con, or if it’s all an act. We wonder if she’s the product of a traumatic past, simply seeking fame and money as a replacement for love, or if she’s a calculating robot who wants to wear red-bottomed Louboutins and drink Moët because she can.  

We marvel at how Anna is able to get away with things (at least in the beginning) simply because people believe she is wealthy, and at how the rich and famous do really live by different rules than the rest of us.

Rhimes coyly reminds us at the beginning of each episode: “This whole story is completely true. Except for all the parts that are totally made up.” But we never learn if the “totally made up” parts refers to creative liberties taken by Rhimes to make a better story, or to the lies told by Anna herself in the original story. The show leaves a lot of our questions unanswered.

Julia Garner absolutely excels in the role of Anna, speaking in a grating Russian/German/American/British accent to model that of Anna’s. Anna Chlumsky stars as the reporter uncovering Anna’s story with us, and Alexis Floyd is powerful as her steadfastly loyal friend, Neff, the only person Anna ever fully pays back. 

Katie Lowes is Rachel Williams, the friend who accused Anna of stealing over $60,000 from her. 

My favorite character is Laverne Cox’s Kacy, the mantra-spouting celebrity trainer who, like the viewer, wonders who is really at fault: Anna or Rachel? Anna or the patriarchy? Anna or classist, upper-crust NYC?  

Numerous reviews, as well as the real-life Rachel Williams, have accused the series of being overly sympathetic toward Anna and of glorifying and glamorizing criminal activity. The series turns the real-life Anna into a meme, but also a folk-hero. Should we really be giving this much attention to someone who cheated her way through life? 

You might need to decide for yourself. All I know is that it certainly does make a good story.    


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