A star rating of 2 out of 5.

Over the last 10 years, we've become obsessed with the scammer. Whether it's Billy McFarland's Fyre Festival, the 2019 college admissions scandal or Silicon Valley fraudster Elizabeth Holmes, the public can't get enough of these headline-making criminals, all of whom convinced big names to invest in their false promises and eventually faced legal consequences as a result.


So, when Netflix announced that it was developing a drama based on Anna Delvey (real name Anna Sorokin) – the Russian-born conwoman who pretended to be a wealthy German heiress and defrauded members of New York high society, banks and hotels out of huge amounts of money – there was a lot to be excited about.

The gripping true-crime story, which has spawned several podcasts and long-read articles since it became a global talking-point in 2017, is so captivating that a miniseries could practically write itself – especially with Jessica Pressler's New York article 'How Anna Delvey Tricked New York's Party People' as the source material – and with Ozark star Julia Garner portraying the fraudster and Shonda Rhimes at the helm, what could possibly go wrong?

Quite a bit, it turns out. Inventing Anna is an unnecessarily melodramatic, bulky, one-note take on one of the most interesting stories to come out of the 2010s and a real let-down. The nine-parter begins in 2017, with journalist Vivian Kent, a character based on Pressler played by a wild-eyed Anna Chlumsky, reaching out to Anna, who was awaiting trial in notorious New York prison Rikers Island, and forgetting to attend ultrasound appointments.

Julia Garner as Anna Delvey

We watch as Vivian travels several times to the high-security jail for interviews with Anna, who flips between sobbing about the prison conditions and snobbishly criticising Vivian's appearance, all whilst insisting that she's innocent. "Are you pregnant or are you just so very, very fat?" she asks the slightly taken-aback reporter.

More like this

Over the course of the nine episodes, the extent of Sorokin's scamming is told through Vivian's interviews with Anna, her friends and the acquaintances she defrauded as well as flashbacks to dramatised moments between the years of 2014 and 2017, and while the show warns at the start, "this whole story is completely true – except for all the parts that are totally made up", they really did push poetic licence to its full potential.

A number of characters are based on nameless people mentioned in Pressler's article but made-up for the purposes of the series and yet, they feature quite heavily in a number of episodes – Anna's tech start-up boyfriend Chase Sikorski (Saamer Usmani) and lavish lifestyle brand owner Talia Mallay (Marika Dominczyk) for example. Inserting them in the narrative with characters like Neff (Alexis Floyd), Kacy Duke (Laverne Cox) and Rachel (Katie Lowes), who are real-life people in the Anna Sorokin story, makes it incredibly difficult for the viewer to discern which parts of the plot really did happen and which are purely for dramatic effect.

As for Julia Garner, she certainly looks the part, nailing Sorokin's mannerisms and stony-faced appearance – however her attempt at a Germanic accent, which spills into Russian, Texan and unidentifiable territories at times, is hugely distracting. Together with the over-dramatic acting and yassified dialogue that's passé even for 2017 ("not today Satan"), you get a performance that feels like a parody at times.

Anna Chlumsky as Vivian Kent
Anna Chlumsky as Vivian Kent Netflix

When it comes to everybody else involved, the general tone is very campy and exaggerated with an almost mid-noughties, Gossip Girl-esque energy and while that makes sense when you remember Sorokin was an Instagram-obsessed wannabe socialite trying to infiltrate the upper echelons of wealthy New York, it makes the story seem unbelievable.

To give Inventing Anna some credit, the parts which take the viewer back to the period in which Anna was scheming her way across the Big Apple and various other capitals are great to watch – but they're padded out with sub-par b-plots centred around Vivian, who is battling with her boss after a previous story turned out to be mainly false, and Anna's lawyer Todd (Arian Moayed), who is having a professional crisis. We're all here for just one thing and that's the story of Anna Delvey, so these tangents from the story-at-large prove to be uninteresting, especially in the first episode.

While we've hit Inventing Anna rather hard in this review, it's largely down to the fact that this true crime drama had so much potential to be one of the best shows of 2022 and yet it's turned out to be somewhat of a disappointment. In a way, the nine-parter has conned us all – not quite to the level Sorokin is notorious for but close.

Inventing Anna arrives on Netflix on Friday 11th February. Check out our guides to the best series on Netflix and the best movies on Netflix, or find out what else is on with our TV Guide.


The latest issue of Radio Times is on sale now – subscribe now to get each issue delivered to your door. For more from the biggest stars in TV, listen to the Radio Times podcast with Jane Garvey.