Every episode of Netflix drama Inventing Anna begins with the same quote. “This story is completely true… except for the parts that are totally made up”. It needles at the viewer as the series continues until you find yourself questioning, but what is true?
The real story the series is based on—an article in the New Yorker magazine—seems too good to be true. It’s about the life of a fake German heir Anna Delvey—real name Anna Sorokin—who scammed her way into the world of the New York elite.
Sorokin’s tale of deception, scam artistry, and extortion of the rich made her a sort of folk hero. It broke into the impenetrable spaces of the 1 percent and revealed them to inhabit a shallow world of image, behaviour and ostentatious wealth.
The real story of Sorokin and her quest for wealth is a genuine feat in scam artistry. Seemingly through wits alone she almost secured £22 million to run a new exclusive club in the centre of New York. She lived out of expensive hotels and the spare rooms of wealthy acquaintances.
Inventing Anna is told through the eyes of journalist Jessica Pressler, and her girl boss quest to break the story despite her vicious male editors—another embellished detail. It’s shot like a cheesy, Hallmark made for TV movie, which has the effect of diverting the foreboding sense of drama. It feels as if it wants to present Sorokin’s story like a teen drama, so it doesn’t delve much into its more compelling aspects.
Did Anna truly believe her own lies? Can you really get by among the super wealthy by knowing how to play the part? Did Anna really do anything wrong—and who did she really hurt? These questions go largely unexplored and unanswered.
Inventing Anna’s consistent dramatisation of the truth only creates a list of questions to google later. The truth is often stranger than fiction. In this case, the decision to ramp up Sorokin’s story with glamour shots and soap opera dialogue undermines the show’s potential.
Anna was a real-life character—and what really happened is far more interesting than whatever a writers’ room at Netflix can come up with.
Inventing Anna is available now on Netflix
A film that deserves its acclaim
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