2018, it was announced Netflix and Shondaland had acquired the New York article
"How Anna Delvey Tricked New York's Party People" by Jessica
Pressler, turning it into a television series with Shonda Rhimes serving as
producer and writer, alongside Betsy Beers. David Frankel will direct and
executive produce two episodes of the series, including the first. The
nine-episode miniseries premiered on February 11, 2022.
2019, Julia Garner, Anna Chlumsky, Katie Lowes, Laverne Cox, and Alexis Floyd
joined the cast of the series. Madeline Brewer was set to portray the role of
Anna Delvey but had to pass due to scheduling conflicts.In November 2019, Arian
Moayed, Anders Holm, Anna Deavere Smith, Jeff Perry and Terry Kinney joined the
cast of the series. In February 2020, Jennifer Esposito joined the cast of the
photography began in New York and Los Angeles in October 2019.
aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the series holds a 59% approval rating
based on 56 reviews, with an average rating of 6.1/10. The website's critics
consensus reads, "While Inventing Anna is as tonally wobbly as Julia
Garner's intentionally daffy accent, her committed performance and the
salacious story make for juicy entertainment." On Metacritic, the series
has a score of 60 out of 100, based on 14 reviews, indicating "mixed or
Gajjar of The A.V. Club gave the limited series a B- and said, "Despite
its more evocative performances, Inventing Anna demands patience that doesn't
pay off, squandering its promising potential along the way." Reviewing the
series for Rolling Stone, Alan Sepinwall gave a rating of 2/5 and described it
as "an overly long muddle, never quite sure what it wants to say about its
title character, or how to say it."
Seen ‘Inventing Anna’? Here’s What It Gets Right
A reporter who has followed the scammer Anna Sorokin,
a.k.a. Anna Delvey, for years watched the new Netflix series about the scandal.
The reporter has thoughts.
Feb. 12, 2022
Feb. 14, 2022
Netflix series “Inventing Anna,” about the con artist Anna Sorokin, better
known as Anna Delvey, includes a playful disclaimer that leaves a lot of room
for interpretation. “This whole story is completely true,” it reads. “Except
for all the parts that are totally made up.”
the second half of the disclaimer refer to the stories Sorokin told her
high-society marks? Or does it describe the story we see onscreen — the one
behind Sorokin’s stories?
in short, is both: As Sorokin and the show’s creator, Shonda Rhimes (“Grey’s
Anatomy,” “Scandal”), would likely agree, there’s no sense in letting facts get
in the way of a good tale.
Sorokin’s monthlong trial, which I covered in 2019 for The New York Times,
evidence showed she stole a private jet and bilked banks, hotels and associates
out of about $200,000. She did all of this while attempting to secure a $25
million loan from a hedge fund to create an exclusive arts club. Swindling her
way into a life of luxury, Sorokin deceived Manhattan’s elite into believing
she was a German heiress worth 60 million euros.
is, I’m not sorry,” she told me at the Rikers Island jail complex, in New York
City, the day after a judge sentenced her to 4 to 12 years behind bars for
charges including second-degree grand larceny, theft of services and one count
of first-degree attempted grand larceny. She added: “I regret the way I went
about certain things.”
a 2018 New York magazine article by Jessica Pressler (a producer of the
series), “Inventing Anna” tells the story of Sorokin’s climb through the
uppermost circles of New York City art, finance and fashion — and of her
ultimate fall from grace. The series, all nine episodes of which debuted
Friday, is the first show Rhimes has created for Netflix herself, and in true
Shondaland tradition, the show luxuriates in a soapy mix of sex, power and
per tradition, puts ambitious and complex women at its center. Sorokin, played
by Julia Garner (“Ozark,” “The Assistant”), is just one of them — and not the
only one who is ethically challenged. The story’s engine is Pressler’s
fictional proxy, Vivian Kent (Anna Chlumsky), whose pursuit of the story
becomes all consuming.
true to life is this telling? I took a look at what the series gets right and
wrong, drawing from my own experience and research, which included
conversations with Sorokin’s lawyer, Todd Spodek, and friend Neff Davis, and a
series of recent phone interviews with Sorokin. (A few minor details here are
based solely on Sorokin’s word, so given her history, use your own judgment.)
She has served her minimum sentence and is now being held by U.S. Immigration
and Customs Enforcement at a corrections facility in Goshen, N.Y. (She is
facing deportation but has appealed the order.)
For a show
that includes a reporter among its producers, the writers pay little attention
to what true or at least ethical reporting looks like.
politics can influence decisions and relationships within publications, as in
most workplaces. And yes, good reporting can include flattering and even
befriending sources only to air their dirty laundry. But the series hinges on a
moment when Vivian convinces Anna to forgo a generous plea deal and go to trial
against the advice of her lawyer, all so Vivian can score a career-redeeming
article. In the real world — or at least in the journalism world — that could
have been the story’s biggest scandal.
series, Vivian is a disgraced journalist at the fictional Manhattan magazine
who is looking for a big break. (She has been banished by her editors to
“Scriberia,” the part of her newsroom where old writers are put out to
pasture.) Seeing Anna’s story as her shot at redemption, Vivian curries Anna’s
favor by bringing underwear to her at Rikers; by helping catalog evidence (“Let
me be part of the team!” she says, also unethical); and by loaning Anna a white
dress to wear during closing arguments, the better to project an image of
this are somewhat rooted in reality. Pressler came under scrutiny after
reporting a fake claim in 2014 that a high school senior had made $72 million
on the stock market. (New York magazine apologized for the article.) But by the
time she met Sorokin in 2018, the writer had already bounced back at the
magazine, publishing a December 2015 cover story about strippers who stole from
“(mostly) rich, (usually) disgusting men.” That became the caper film
“Hustlers” (2019), starring Jennifer Lopez.
said Pressler did not bring her underwear; according to Spodek, she also did
not help catalog evidence. Sorokin confirmed that the decision to go to trial
was her own — and made against the advice of confidantes. As for the white
dress, Sorokin wore it during jury deliberations. By the time the guilty
verdict came in, she had switched to black. (Pressler declined to comment for
‘V.I.P.’ treatment at Rikers
interviewed inmates like Anna at Rikers and other jails, and the scenes of
taking that Q100 bus offer a pretty accurate depiction of what family and
friends (and eager reporters) go through to visit people behind bars.
authorized media visits — what the Netflix Anna refers to as the “V.I.P.”
visits — are from a Dream Rikers, based on my own experience. Sure, reporters
get to skip a few buses when they schedule ahead, but that can take a month to
finagle and there’s nothing that feels very V.I.P. at the jail itself.
was Sorokin, a woman who always manages to create an exception. So, I wondered:
Did her jailers really serve tea to her and Pressler in a brightly furnished
private room? Anna said that they did not.
“Def no tea
at rikers!” Sorokin texted from her corrections facility. But, she added,
visitors had access to a cash-only coffee machine while she was in prison
upstate, though “it doesn’t come in porcelain cups,” as the tea appears to in
As in many
Manhattan courtroom dramatizations, “Inventing Anna” features a different, more
aesthetically pleasing courthouse from the one where the real trial took place.
The one shown in the series is on Chambers Street, about a 10 minute walk from
where Sorokin actually stood trial. But if you watch the first episode
carefully, you’ll glimpse the much shabbier courthouse where the case played
out, at 111 Centre Street.
precise: the drama inside the courthouse. Spodek, Sorokin’s lawyer (played in
the series by Arian Moayed), delivered a made-for-TV opening statement,
comparing Sorokin’s New York dreams to those of Frank Sinatra. Similarly, the
re-creation of his heated cross-examination of Rachel DeLoache Williams, a
former friend of Anna’s who got stuck with a $62,000 bill for a Marrakesh trip,
was a slightly shorter version of the rousing original.
even made Williams cry — tears lost on the jury when she proclaimed, “This is
the most traumatic experience I’ve ever been through.” American Express
eventually forgave the debt, and Williams later profited from the experience
thanks to deals for a book and with HBO.
As in the
show, Sorokin sketched scenes from the courtroom throughout the trial,
including a caricature of the lead prosecutor (published in The New York Times
after the trial) delivering closing statements, head shrunken, shoulders
squared and foot tapping while a juror dozes. In the distance: a brick castle
labeled “FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE,” decorated with a hypnotic swirl of dollar, euro
and pound signs.
crowd my entrance,” Anna instructs her lawyer in the finale before strutting
into the courtroom. As depicted in the series, her courtroom outfits became a
virtual runway show, acquiring an Instagram following and bolstering her image
long after her Delvey days seemed over.
pretty accurate. Sorokin definitely worked it during the trial with the help of
Anastasia Walker as her personal stylist. The Instagram account is real
(@Annadelveycourtlooks). Several of her outfits are precisely re-created on the
show. But as the weeks passed, Sorokin ran out of looks, she told me, and associates
including Spodek and Pressler stepped in, as with the white dress.
the outfits weren’t processed by Rikers in time for court, resulting in fashion
meltdowns as she rejected subpar substitutes, one day delaying the court
proceedings for almost an hour and a half. I once spotted a bag in the
courtroom filled with wardrobe rejects, including a flurry of long sleeves and
collared shirts, a light blue sleeveless dress (Ann Taylor, size 10), black pants
(J. Crew, size 0) and a medium white button-down collared shirt from the Gap.
sounds very dramatic (and it was), but it wasn’t entirely Sorokin’s fault.
Several years before her case, a City Council bill banned Rikers jumpsuits from
the courtroom as potentially biasing for juries. Even so, Justice Diane Kiesel,
the presiding judge, clearly detested the catwalk entrances and the holdups
that preceded them — she ultimately announced that if Sorokin did not arrive
promptly in court (however dressed), the trial would go on without her.
virtually untraceable accent is among her most distinguishing features. Born in
a town 20 minutes outside Moscow, she moved to Germany when she was 15 but
struck out on her own at 19, flitting from Paris to New York. Her accent is a
mélange of influences, from everywhere and nowhere at once.
Garner get it right? Ultimately, I found Netflix Anna too nasally, the words
harshly diced, each syllable too carefully executed. While Garner has nailed
the essence of the accent’s oddity, Sorokin’s actual voice is softer, the
too, what Sorokin thought of her TV character. “It’s really hard to tell where
she would be from,” she said. Garner’s version, like Anna’s, is a voice without
a home, spanning several continents and eras of Sorokin’s life. “She got it
right in a way,” Sorokin acknowledged.