Anna Chlumsky as journalist Vivian Kent in the Netflix series “Inventing Anna.” (Nicole Rivelli/Netflix)

Arts and Entertainment

Review: Netflix’s ‘Inventing Anna’ — promising enigma turned wannabe show

After you waste nine hours of your life trying to learn about the case of Anna Delvey, you’ll know less than when you started.
<a href="" target="_self">Ananya Balaji</a>

Ananya Balaji

February 23, 2022
The true story of a fake German heiress who takes on the elite of New York society and scams them out of millions of dollars. Ok, I’m listening. However, the premise is just about the only memorable thing about the show. Netflix’s “Inventing Anna” fails to keep with the basic demands of a watch-worthy show, and on the whole is a rather excruciating, bland viewer experience.

Through the lens of journalist Vivian Kent reporting on the fraud, the audience begins the show eager to learn the answer to the many questions the show promises insight into. Was the protagonist Anna Delvey really just a manipulative narcissist, or a cunning vigilante who exposed the superficiality behind the rich? How did she do it? Why did she do it?

After you waste nine hours of your life trying to answer those questions, you’ll know less than when you started. The show gives numerous subtle nudges at answers, but flops in actually developing anything far enough to make a point or inform the audience. By the end, you’re still right where you started.

One stand out detail of the show was the addition of Kent being a soon-to-be mother, an admirable choice given the unilateral on-screen presence of mothers. The intersection of professional aspirations and raising a family isn’t a supported narrative for women both in media and real life, yet this ends up being just another tangent for the show to add to its wannabe repertoire.

Another direction the show attempts is leaving its mark on the “evil psycho badass scammer lady” trope, as seen in Netflix’s “I Care a Lot” and Hulu’s upcoming “The Dropout.” But the series fails to actually go beyond the initial character image to give the storyline that such an interesting case deserves.

Instead, it turns into a mind-numbing pattern of the main character going somewhere extravagant, faking her money, and manipulating others into paying for her lavish habits. With the show’s all-over-the-place efforts at finding a purpose — whether it’s female representation or dialogue or even the plot — the show doesn’t fulfill the viewer’s appetite in even one way. 

Still, the viewer wants to give the show another chance episode after episode, just based on the initial intrigue created out of the mysterious Anna Delvey. But after all the pathetic misfires at finding real substance or significance, the series ends up being a bigger phony wannabe than the con artist herself.