Not so long ago, the story of a fake German heiress became a meme that broke the internet. Inventing Anna is the Netflix limited series telling the story of the woman behind the meme. The Shondaland-produced series is nine episodes long and stars Julia Garner (Ozark) as Anna, Anna Chlumsky (Veep) as Vivian, Katie Lowes (Scandal) as Rachel, and Laverne Cox (Orange Is the New Black) as Kacy.
Inventing Anna paints a picture of the rise and fall of Anna Delvey, how she moved in and out of social circles and locations in order to get the Anna Delvey Foundation off the ground. She accomplishes this by leaving her life behind in Europe and starting fresh in New York City. She weaves herself into paths of figures in the fashion and arts scene. She severs the connection between Chase (Saamer Usmani), her futurist boyfriend, and Nora (Kate Burton), his mentor.
Anna uses Nora’s connections to get her in the room with the right lawyers, architects, and bankers to make her dreams a reality. She lives in hotels and buys access to the most exclusive spots in New York through hefty tips. For a time, Anna even crashes with Billy McFarland (Ben Rappaport), the creator of the infamous Fyre Fest. She fools the socialites around her with her understated, yet sophisticated style and dismissive attitude. Her confident demeanor allows her to get away with stealing a plane and staying on a yacht a week after the owners had left. However, after years of leading this lifestyle, what goes up must come crashing down.
Sharing the Spotlight
The final episode of the limited series is centered on Anna’s lawyer, Todd Spodek (Arian Moayed), and her trial. It’s all been leading to his defense strategy against the charges of grand larceny. He fights with Anna throughout the trial, especially after she refuses to come out until she has better clothes to wear. She lashes out at Todd for ruining her reputation; in turn, he lashes out at her, saying that her own father won’t even come to the trial. This breaks through the facade of her wealthy father narrative. Todd is able to convince her that she’s the star of the trial, he’s just the costar working to brighten her own light. Despite this, as seen in his closing argument, Todd tears down how she never stood a chance to actually get the bank loans she applied for. She was just a girl with a dream in the big city. This argument proved mostly effective since Anna Sorokin was found not guilty of grand larceny in the first-degree against Citibank and Rachel Williams. She was, however, found guilty of second-degree grand larceny, one count of first-degree attempted grand larceny, and theft of services.
This case takes a toll on Todd’s time and his marriage. Even after the verdict comes in from the month-long trial, he opts to stay instead of going on vacation to Mexico with his family. Todd did not want to leave Anna alone for her sentencing. For all the excessive phone calls and difficulties handling his client, he needed to see it through to the end. From the series’ perspective, it suggests that Todd and his wife may have separated or even divorced after this. However, it is revealed at the end of the series that the real life Todd Spodek did suffer a health scare and finally took a vacation with his family.
The Rachel of It All
Inventing Anna also explores the people in Anna’s inner circle (or as close to one as she could get, considering she keeps everyone at arm’s length). Her three friends reveal the degree by which they experienced Anna. Neff (Alexis Floyd) is only ever treated well by Anna, defending and championing her throughout the trial. She’s the only friend to visit Anna while she’s at Rikers. Of the friend group, Neff is also the only one who gets restitution. She missed out on the infamous trip to Marrakech, where Kacy gets food poisoning and Rachel covers the trip expenses with her work credit card.
After three months of asking for the money, even staging an intervention, Rachel goes to the police and the district attorney’s office for help. When Anna goes to trial, she is one of the victims, alongside the banks, with charges against her. Rachel takes the stand where she tearfully recounts her story. Todd rips through her testimony once he questions how good of a friend she could be when she’s sold her story to Vanity Fair and secured a book deal. Because of this, the jury does find Anna not guilty in the charge against Rachel. The damage doesn’t stop there; the former friend group falls apart. Rachel loses Kacy after it’s revealed in court her involvement with the sting operation to arrest Anna from outside of rehab.
As for the real life counterparts, Neff eventually quits her job at the hotel, moves to Los Angeles, and is pursuing her career in the film industry. Kacy is still a life coach and fitness trainer, but has since cut difficult clients out of her life because of her involvement with Anna. As for Rachel, her memoir made Time’s 100 Best Books of 2019.
Throughout the limited series, there’s a question of whether or not Rachel Williams is a victim. Based on the way she’s portrayed by Katie Lowes, it toes the line of empathy for the situation she landed herself in yet, places responsibility in her hands. For all the trauma she endured in Morocco, she felt pushed over the edge to sell her story to multiple sources in order to get her money back. She put her story out as a way for her to write her own narrative, reclaiming herself as her own protagonist. Rachel never got the money back from Anna herself but her involvement with Anna has bankrolled her future.
How To Let Go and Move On
Through the eyes of Vivian Kent, we experience the story of Anna Sorokin. Vivian is the fictionalized version of Jessica Pressler, the New York Magazine journalist who wrote about Anna’s story, and Inventing Anna itself is inspired by her reporting. From the time she pitches the story to the time she says goodbye to Anna, Vivian immerses herself in the life and lies of the fake German heiress. After following the story for years, including a trip to Anna’s hometown, it finally comes to an end. The trial is over and Anna is sentenced. Vivian takes one last trip to Rikers to see Anna before she is moved to Bedford Hills prison. She first came to Rikers only a few months pregnant, meeting Anna in the standard visitation room and bypassing the formality of a proper interview. Over the course of Vivian’s meetings with Anna, Anna insults Vivian’s fashion, hair and even her abilities as a journalist. She cuts her down at every opportunity to prop herself up. In their final meeting at Rikers, in a rare moment of vulnerability, Anna pleads for Vivian to promise that she’ll visit her. As she leaves the room, Anna tells Vivian that she looks good and that she’s not fat anymore. Anna and Vivian never became friends, but they have needed each other to get what they wanted and were forever changed by their meeting.
What haunts Vivian the most in the final episode is the question that plagues writers after they’ve finished a story that’s consumed so much of their time: What comes next? Her attachment to the story took up at least two years of her life, during which time she was pregnant and gave birth. In fact, her determination to finish her initial story kept her from leaving for the hospital after her water broke, only after she got permission from Kacy to use her story but to only refer to as “The Trainer.” When a person gives so much of their time and energy to a story, it’s hard to just walk into the next story, nor do you want to just stay in the same story forever. Lou (Jeff Perry), one of her colleagues in Scriberia, finds her in the bathroom and gives her this simple advice: you move on to the next story. It’s similar to the scene between Jonathan Larson (Andrew Garfield) and his agent in tick, tick…BOOM! when she gives him advice to write the next musical and to just keep writing after he finishes the next one.
Who Is Anna Sorokin?
“There’s a little bit of Anna in all of us.” Todd says this during his opening argument of the trial. Over the course of this limited series, the truth in that statement is revealed. There’s something seductive about losing yourself in the lifestyle: the fashion, the art, the wealth, the game that Anna is playing against the elite in the business. At best, you’re transfixed at the way Anna Sorokin is able to convince people of the Anna Delvey story she’s telling the world. You revel in her victories, from the way she effortlessly was able to steal a jet to using a voice changing app to pose as her family’s lawyer. Yet on the other end, there’s hubris and tragedy to her endeavors. She overdoses in order to pause her visa from expiring; she stole thousands of dollars from people like Nora and Rachel. She committed wire fraud to afford to stay in world-class hotels. The pendulum swings back and forth between rooting for Anna’s schemes to remembering that everything about her is a fraud.
Each episode begins with some variation of “The whole story is completely true except for all the parts that are totally made up.” For everything that was made up, there’s much more truth hidden in the details. Through Julia Garner’s performance, audiences are able to see the fragility behind her fierceness. There are moments where Anna is hit by the reality of her con, where the jig is almost up and she looks like she’s about to break; but then she flips back into her confident persona and pulls another fast one on her unsuspecting targets. The Soho grifter fights to survive in the Big Apple through faking it until you make it. It’s a strategy that’s worked for infamous scammers like Billy McFarland and Elizabeth Holmes… until it doesn’t anymore. How long can you keep the con going when you’re lying to yourself?
In the end, Anna Sorokin got everything she ever wanted: she became famous. In fact, the whole reason this limited series exists is due to the real Anna Sorokin selling her life rights to Netflix from prison, using the money to pay restitution to the banks and state fees. Anna was sentenced to up to twelve years in prison; she was released after only serving two of those years. A month out of prison, she was taken into custody by ICE for overstaying her visa. Anna Sorokin currently remains behind bars. Maybe we’ll never know the real Anna Sorokin because that’s the point. She traded it in for what would become the legend of Anna Delvey.