CHENNAI: When desires and dreams magnify into unreal expectation, that can become a noose.
This could be the one-sentence description of “Inventing Anna,” the new miniseries from Netflix.
With each of the nine episodes an hour or so long it may look too unwieldy, though it is compelling — as most crime capers are. Secretly, we all love a successful man or woman, most often enviously. And Anna Delvey (born Anna Sorokin) and played with superb mesmeric finesse by the Ozark actress, Julia Garner, passed herself off as a rich German heiress and got some of the most powerful people in New York eating out of her hand. They included big bankers, the insanely wealthy and dashing playboys.
A lengthy story written in Manhattan Magazine by Vivian Kent (Anna Chlumsky) — inspired by real-life journalist Jessica Pressler’s piece in New York — embarrassed and shamed financial bigwigs, art collectors, gallery owners, fashion designers and socialites who had all been fooled by the 20-something Anna Delvey. She lived in luxury, wearing couture, flying in private jets and staying at star hotels. She showed off by ordering the most expensive wines and six-course meals. Her small group of friends — who included a hotel concierge, a physical trainer and a magazine employee — played along with her.
But how long can the game go on? The cat comes out of the bag at an expensive holiday in Marrakech where Rachel DeLoache (a fantastic Katie Lowes) is forced to hand over her company credit card for a splurge by Anna, who promises to wire the money immediately. It never arrives, leading a distraught Rachel into a storm at her office. Rachel was one of a large brigade who were royally duped and dumped, and the frauds ran into hundreds of thousands of dollars.
But how could some of the sharpest brains in New York walk into this mess? A pregnant Vivian, much to the chagrin of her editor, wants to find out who Anna is, and she convinces him to let her do a story. We see Vivian in one of the early scenes walking into Rikers Island prison to meet Anna. “Why do you wear these kinds of clothes? You look poor,” Anna says to Vivian, completely shocking her.
The series takes us back and forth, not only between two time zones but also two very different Annas: One who is cruelly sarcastic, appearing brutal and arrogant, and the other a sad picture of vulnerability. There is one distressing scene in which she is thrown out of her hotel room because she cannot pay up, and we hear her pleading with the manager that “it is very cold out there.” She has to take refuge in a metro coach, eating the leftovers from a commuter.
The series, which picks up steam after Rachel joins the plot, seems undecided about the stand it should take, leaving viewers confused. Nevertheless, we begin to empathize with a woman who lived a life of lies, hiding behind huge glasses that made her look alluringly innocent. At the end of the show, which comes from the Shonda Rhimes stable, we are left not with anger but sorrow for a young woman who perhaps lost her way and her Russian family in her quest for a magical life.
“Everyone knows me. I am an icon,” she tells Vivian, and later her harassed counsel, Todd (in a compelling performance by Arian Moayed). Even the judge seems to be taken in by Anna, allowing her to walk into court late because of “wardrobe issues.”
However, all this is in vain when she finds herself left in the dumps.