On February 11, Netflix premiered Inventing Anna, the latest bet from one who always seems to pick the winning horse, Shonda Rhimes. On this occasion the showrunner had her eyes set on Anna Sorokin and, according to Insider, the platform paid the real-life scammer up to $320,000 for the rights to tell her story.
Whether or not the streaming giant can turn a buck on the deal remains to be seen, but what I will tell you is that it’s extremely addictive, warning us from the opening scene that the story is based on real events, the production plays around with all the core ingredients ensured to sustain suspense, keeping watchers in the dark and hungry to discover how it’s all going to pan out.
With sprinklings of The Wolf of Wall Street, the glamour of billionaire heiresses-influencers like Paris Hilton, a pinch of Anna Allen, and even a spattering of Spain’s own Little Nicholas, this would already have been more than sufficient to whet the appetite, but with puppet-master Shondaland moving the strings, we’re ensured to be served up one of the year’s tastiest drama morsels.
So, let’s analyze the strengths of Inventing Anna:
Real-life events seasoned with all the best ingredients
This tale based on real-life events kicks off with the premise that, “This whole story is completely true. Except for all the parts that are totally made up.”, (could there be anything more powerful?) as it navigates the choppy waters between honest-to-god-truth and the protagonists imagination.
The nine episodes in the series narrate how Anna Sorokin, aka, Anna Delvey, rose to fame among New York’s elite, claiming to be a German heiress with a fortune of 60 million in a trust fund. Thus she earned a place among Manhattan’s who’s who soon becoming an influencer capable of scamming hundreds of thousands of dollars from her wealthy friends with the promise of giving it back… only she never did.
Her plan was going swimmingly until she was arrested in 2017 on charges of grand larceny and subsequently found guilty two years later, thus becoming the living image of what had appeared to be the unstoppable rise of Robin Hood dressed in Prada, and her fall from grace into hell, all at once.
She’ll be getting out of jail next month, and her release is sure to generate media chatter galore, not to mention the promise of future installments in this story Rhimes intuitively tagged early on. But let’s face it, it ticks all the boxes; ambition, VIP life, luxury, celebrities, mystery, punishment and even a final ‘moral of the story’ ending.
Time to stop using the term, ‘Strong female leads’, says Shonda
But as we all know, the difference between fact and fiction is that fiction has to make sense, which is exactly what Shonda’s best at when it comes to collaborating with stellar women performers in her leads, shades of grey included.
The creator of hit shows like Grey’s Anatomy, How to Get Away With Murderer, Scandal and Bridgerton , among others, builds her characters in a very effective way. In this case, the protagonists are Anna Delvey (Julia Garner) and Vivian Kent (Anna Chlumsky), two women who couldn’t be more polar opposites if they tried, each with their own entirely different set of values, joined by one common interest: to succeed at their jobs.
Neither one come across as all that likeable, or easy to empathize with. Both characters are crafted to include a richness of nuances and are more adept at showcasing their flaws than their virtues, fragile, even though they may try hard to hide it, going through tough patches in their lives. And herein lies the Rhimes’ excellence in creatin her protagonists, the fact that they are totally believable, genuine. We’ve all been them at some or other point in our lives, even though we mightn’t want to accept it, and that’s partly why we can’t take our eyes off them, as that would be akin to abandoning them to their fate, like betraying yourself if you like.
In fact, it’s like Rhimes is speaking through Delvey in season two as she describes a picture of a successful photographer: “Before this series, Sherman was just another photographer hiding behind the lens. Observing. Choosing subjects based on what others might like. Then one day she steps into her own frame. Considers herself to be worthy. Rather than being forced into a role in the male-dominated art world, she takes a leading role in her work. And it changes the world.”
That’s exactly what happened to Shonda and once Delvey utters them, nobody can walk away from this series.
The adrenaline rush that comes with being a journalist
After ‘playing’ doctors, lawyers and politicians, Shonda had one profession left pending: that of journalism, and the treatment by our protagonists of the story they’re telling is the other addictive cornerstone the series is built upon.
It’s not Anna who tells us about her adventures, but Vivian. A journalist who knows as little about storytelling as we do, as she oscillates between believing her inventions or doubting absolutely everything. She’s dumbfounded by what she discovers and utterly dejected when she hits a dead end, veritably gobsmacked as she interviews millionaires, perched on a sofa worth more than her apartment.
We are all that journalist, and the choice of the character makes the show totally unpredictable, thereby conserving the mystery as to what actually happened, until the very end and serving up a real treat viewers who are already stuffed to the gills with content truly appreciate.