Does Netflix's 'Inventing Anna' Innovate A Binge-Worthy Hook?

Inventing Anna Julia Garner Anna Delvey Sorokin Netflix
Nicole Rivelli / Netflix

“Inventing Anna” is the new Netflix limited series from TV creator extraordinaire Shonda Rhimes. It covers the stranger than fiction tale of Anna Delvey (Sorokin), a convicted fraudster whose yarn is still unfolding as we speak. Among her crimes when “Inventing Anna” picks up in the premiere episode is conning banks and hotels. So, get your tissues ready.

In all seriousness, I suspect from the first episode that more will be unspooled as the motivated magazine writer, Vivien, with her own mysterious past, gets to the bottom of it. For those of us who fuzzily (to sharply) recall the media storm surrounding Anna Delvey and that now-iconic cover image of her, without remembering the ending to the story, “Inventing Anna” offers a portal to it.

Of course, it acknowledges some fudging of the facts, straight-up, a move that is very much to its credit. Nothing is more irksome than a biopic masquerading as the full-blown truth. As “Inventing Anna” attempts to dig into the juicy tale of its subject, it has the wonderful assistance of Julia Garner in doing so. 

Right off the bat, it is clear that Garner is squaring off for a grand slam with an execution of Anna Delvey’s accent that is eerily dead-on. “Inventing Anna” leans into its star player while also adding heft to the other players in her story. At least as far as the first episode is concerned.

As Anna’s star is setting, ambitious journalist Vivien (Anna Chlumsky) is chasing the story of a lifetime as her personal life is taking a major turn. Meanwhile, Anna’s attorney is similarly pulled in different directions. What “Inventing Anna” interestingly notes is that each character can identify with a varying piece of Anna’s complicated story.

It is their glimpse through the looking glass that makes judging Anna all the more difficult. What is equally compelling is that this limited series is coming on the heels of another Netflix juggernaut: “The Tinder Swindler.” In intimate interviews, the hot doc shared the stories of ordinary women manipulated out of their of money by a made-up-millionaire pretending to be their prince charming.

The documentary turned up the heat on Hollywood’s typical trope of a con-man with a conflicted heart of gold. Whether “Inventing Anna” will follow in helping guild the image of Delvey/Sorokin is not entirely clear in the first episode. What is evident is that Julia Garner is an absolute force to be reckoned with whenever she is on-screen.

To me, Julia Garner is one of the best actresses working right now, and “Inventing Anna” is a prime example of why. In it, Garner proves to the Netflix masses that she is not her “Ozark” character rather one incredible chameleon. Garner’s complex and nitty-gritty portrayal of the tough-as-nails firebrand Ruth Langmore has made her a fan favorite. In contrast, her icy role in “Inventing Anna” marks a direct U-turn.

The Netflix series shifts narratives, which means Anna is not necessarily the lead of this drama. Anna Chlumsky’s determined Vivien arguably claims that spot. Nevertheless, Julia Garner shines bright during her time on the screen, and it will be interesting to see how her time in action proceeds. “Inventing Anna” has some sharp dialogue in the first episode, and Shonda Rhimes’ dynamic flare is present.

It all makes for a compelling “Catch Me If You Can” type of adventure. Is it worth continuing to watch beyond the first episode? It certainly seems like it. The premiere takes a while to get going. When the momentum starts picking up, it starts gelling, big-time. After watching the premiere, it has haunted me in a strange way.

Ever since starting it, “Inventing Anna” has never been far from my thoughts. The desire to see where this crazy (mostly?) true story heads, and more importantly, how it gets there, has me hooked. I know how the real Anna Delvey’s wild life as a socialite ended, but I want to see how Shonda Rhimes handles it. Oh, and there is one more thing this viewer wants to know. 

Who is the real Anna Delvey? To find out some of those answers, check out “Inventing Anna” on Netflix. It is currently billed as a limited series. So, expect it to wrap up with the kind of closure “Ozark” will when it eventually returns for the final half of Season 4 on the streaming giant.