Inventing Anna is a truth-stranger-than-fiction narrative based on the extraordinary story of Russian-born, German-educated Anna Delvey who inveigled herself into New York society – and defrauded them of their money.
An instagram and social media sensation, Delvey (Julia Garner) claimed to have a wealthy family and a €60 million trust fund lodged in Europe. But a few (small) unpaid debts led her to a court hearing – and the ears of investigative journalist, Vivian Kent (Anna Chumskly). A seemingly minor story becomes, in the hands of Kent, something significantly bigger as more and bigger frauds are revealed as Delvey looked for funding for her proposed Arts Foundation.
With a love-hate relationship between Delvey and Kent unfolding on screen (Delvey craves attention: Kent needs the scoop), Inventing Anna is a litany of culpability as the Manhattan elite threw weight and dollars behind the entrepreneur. Already monied, there was the perceived ‘need’ to be part of this elite, uptown project: an arrogant and exceptionally confident Davey knows the value of blinding people by thinking big.
Inventing Anna is a tale of greed. But not restricted simply to Anna (the irony is that her planned arts foundation, whilst targetting an elite market, could have had a massive impact on the art world). It’s a greed of status, recognition, gratification: the American Dream. Hundreds of thousands of dollars may have been charged by Anna to AmEx cards not her own, but the cardholders preferred to remain in embarassed silence. Even Kent is driven by the need to clear her name from an erroneous article that has tarnished her reputation.
It’s an extraordinary tale rivetingly told – even if the frauds do become a little too repetitive for the viewer (how many times can we hear that Anna’s father is witholding money or there’s a problem wiring the money? This may be the first time for the victim but for the presentation of a television drama, repeat, repeat, repeat is not always structurally advantageous). Garner herself is splendid in her cold arrogance and playful judgement but surprisingly fails to convince when she needs charm. Charm is to be found in Scriberia – the outpost corner of the magazine offices where Kent has been stationed with the older journalists. And charm is to be found in the interactions between Kent and Delvey’s lawyer, Todd (Arian Moayed) as the two try to get a handle on Anna and her story.