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Binge Viewing: 'Inventing Anna' shines a light on NYC's elite

Anna Delvey

Inventing Anna is the latest must binge television show from Netflix. It documents the real life story of how the elite of New York’s fashion, art and finance worlds became captivated by 25-year-old German heiress Anna Delvey.

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Delvey had an ambitious plan to launch a The Anna Delvey foundation, a private members only club that would be a combination of art galleries, meeting spaces, restaurants and meeting spaces. She set her eyes on the Church Missions House, an iconic building in Grammercy Park, and set about raising the millions of dollars of financing required for the project.

Anna is attitude is glacial, she has no time for bad service, people who question her motives, or those who do not go for what they want. She’s lived a privileged life and has no understanding of how the little people live their lives, she’s a German heiress with a $60 million trust fund.

Except she wasn’t. Anna’s friends and business acquaintances constantly find themselves being left with the bill, Anna’s credit cards often don’t work, she says her wealthy father has cut her off again, bank transfers never materialise.

She stays in hotels, tips staff in $100 dollar bills, but racks up bills into the thousands. It turns out Anna Delvey is really Anna Sorokin, and she grew up in a small town in Russia, before emigrating to Germany with her family as a teenager.

Netflix’s nine episode series created by Shonda Rhimes starts with journalist Vivian Kent from Manhattan magazine investigating the story after Anna’s world has come tumbling down. Anna’s now being held at Riker’s Island, and her lawyer is snowed under with documents about her sham life.

We follow Vivian Kent, played by Veep star Anna Chulumsky, as she tries to piece together the world of Anna Delvey. Each episode focuses on a different person in Anna’s journey, the stepping stones to how she successfully had the banks lined up to give her millions to realise her dream, and how it all came crashing down. Throughout the journey we’re constantly asking, who is Anna Delvey?

Julia Garner, best known for work on the TV series Ozark, plays Delvey. It’s a challenging role because she’s portraying a character who is generally unlikeable, and you wonder why so many of the people in her life gravitated towards her.

Also in the cast are a lot of familiar faces, Anthony Edwards (E.R, Top Gun, Designated Survivor) plays banker Alan Reed, whose life is invigorated through his interactions with the pushy faux-socialite. Kate Burton (Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal) plays society connector Nora, Arian Moayed (Succession, Madam Secretary) takes on the role of layer Todd Spodek.

Surrounding Vivian Kent, are a trio of older writers who help her bring her story to life, they include the marvelous Anna Deavere Smith (The West Wing), Jeffrey Perry (My So-Called Life, Scandal), and Terry Kinney (Oz). They bring a delightful light heartedness to the piece, like an Enid Blyton detective trio.

While Vivian has her crew, Anna also has close friends who want to support her, despite them being among her con victims. Newcomer Alexis Floyd plays Hotel concierge and aspiring film director Neff Davis, Katie Quinn Lowes (Scandal) plays Vanity Fair photo editor Rachel Williams, and Laverne Cox plays personal trainer and life coach Kacy Duke.

The fascinating element in Inventing Anna is not discovering that Anna Delvey was a con-artist, the story starts with her being held in prison, but discovering the ingredients that contribute to her creation, and the realisation that everyone is a little bit of a hustler.

There’s a lot to be said about the power of social media, the aloofness of the art world, and the judgement of the fashionistas. Whether it’s amassing money, followers, or friends, all the stories wrapped around the tale of this fake German heiress have similar themes.

While watching this show I found myself thinking of various people I’ve met in life who were fraudsters to varying degrees, and wondered where the mantra of ‘fake it until yo make it’ ends, and you move into just plain ‘faking it’.

It’s also notable that Laverne Cox, an actor who is transgender, has been cast to portray a real life cis-gender woman. A rare moment to tick the other column in the ongoing discussions about who gets to play which characters in terms of sexuality and gender.

Inventing Anna is on Netflix

Graeme Watson


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