I remember being introduced to Dan Bilzerian by a coworker. The first image I saw, of course, was an Instagram post of Bilzerian doing the usual: sitting on a yacht, only wearing swimming trunks, and surrounded by models in bikinis. I asked my coworker, “What does he do?” My coworker replied, “He hangs out with hot chicks.” I said, “Well, I can see that, but what does he do?” My coworker responded, “He shoots down drones with guns, and runs cars over with a tank. There’s always hot chicks in all his posts.” I said, “Okay, but what does…. he do to earn that kind lifestyle?” My coworker had no idea. And I never did until years later, when it was revealed Dan Bilzerian was nothing more than a man born rich, spending trust fund money from his criminal Daddy. Then started a CBD/Marijuana vaping business, and used investor funds to rent a sixty million dollar mansion, and party with models he hired to just stand around him for Instagram posts.
Dan Bilzerian is the kind of Social Media Influencer I’m sure Anna Delvey learned from while swindling her way up the socialite ladder. The only difference between her and Bilzerian is the fact she did not have a trust fund provided to her by a rich father. In 2019 Delvey was convicted of grand larceny and theft of services, and to serve four to twelve years in prison. She was released February 2021 for good behavior, spent about a month free, posting on her Instagram, then was taken into custody by I.C.E. for overstaying her visa. I don’t think people like Anna Delvey are the worst people in the world, because like Bernie Madoff, she did not physically harm anyone while committing her crimes. There might be a touch of narcissistic, and maybe sociopathic intentions in her actions, but there’s nothing wrong in trying to harmlessly steal the American Dream if you have a chance to succeed. Delvey almost succeeded, and like Bilzerian, she would have never been behind bars. (If you notice, I’m not calling her by her actual name “Anna Sorokin,” because she deserves some respect. Just a little.)
Now on to Netflix’s adaption of the Anna Delvey true crime story: Inventing Anna. A miniseries created and produced by Shonda Rhimes (Gray’s Anatomy and Bridgerton) and mainly inspired by the New York Magazine article: “How Anna Delvey Tricked New York’s Party People,” by Jessica Pressler. It stars Julia Garner (Ozark) as Anna Delvey and Anna Chlumsky as journalist Vivian Kent (A fictional counterpart to Jessica Pressler). Every episode creatively opens with the disclaimer: “This whole story is completely true. Except for all the parts that are totally made up.” Which surprised me, because the miniseries is long enough to show more facts than dramatizations regarding what the real Anna Delvey actually did. But like Delvey herself, facts can be just so boring, since taking some artistic liberties to tell a unique story can be fun.
Some critics of the show have complained about Julia Garner’s accent in her portrayal of Anna, but I found it to be accurate, since the fact Delvey proclaimed to be fully German raised, while in reality she was raised in Russia before immigrating to Germany with her family when she was sixteen years old. Though Garner’s accent is laughable, I think it was meant to be. Garner’s performance as Delvey is one to behold. It’s crazy I began watching Inventing Anna right after finishing the fourth season of Ozark. Anna Delvey and Ruth Langmore, both portrayed by Julia Garner, are the epitome of complete opposites, and Garner’s portrayal of them really proves the actor has range and the capability of playing almost anyone. If Warner Bros. was looking for anyone to replace Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, they must look no further than Julia Garner.
Anna Chlumsky as journalist Vivian Kent was a great addition to the dramatization of the story. Vivian Kent represents not only that of the working class who earn their way to a respectable position but can also make a few mistakes on the way. Before the story begins, her character was tricked into writing an article that ended up being a complete lie, and though her editor failed at doing his job properly, she ends up taking all the blame. As she investigates the crimes of Anna Delvey, she seems to avoid the public shame she went through, focusing all her efforts on why and how Delvey got away with so much. And the fact she’s pregnant, adds a kind of suspenseful quality to the miniseries. The moment her water breaks she needs to convince personal trainer Kacy Duke (Laverne Cox) to give permission to include her part in Delvey’s story before going to the hospital to give birth. The sequence was a bit of a stretch, but in the end, the scene added some humanity to those working in journalism. There are faces behind words written on the pages in magazines.
The storytelling style of Inventing Anna is mainly done by showing the perspective of people who knew Delvey for a time after she decides to go to trial rather than take a plea deal. They are only willing to talk to Vivian Kent to protect their image if they have to testify in court. From overstaying on a yacht without the owner’s permission with her boyfriend to attending fashion shows with a high-end uppity photographer so she can simply appear in photos on Instagram and magazines. Then attending parties with fashion elites, telling all who would listen that she was a German heiress living on Daddy’s allowance, and waiting on a sixty million dollar trust fund she plans on using to open ADF(Anna Delvey Foundation), a social art club for rich people. And the craziest thing about it is this: she could have succeeded. Delvey could have gotten the loan from the bank to fund her social club, stealing the American Dream, and I think she would have paid it back without anyone noticing, but that’s not what ended up happening.
One of the most unique qualities displayed in Inventing Anna about Delvey is how what she told others about herself enchanted them to feel better, and more confident in themselves, and their own outlook on life. The episode about her obtaining the loan for her social club with the help of a lawyer named Alan Reed (played by ER actor Anthony Edwards) illustrated this tenfold. Alan Reed was a successful lawyer living life in such a routine fashion that almost anyone looking at him from the outside can simply say there’s a stick stuck in his…. well, you get the picture. His marriage is a bore, and he has a daughter taking an aimless, prolonged break from college, and spending his money with no plans for her future. Then Anna Delvey shows up in his office, and her presence gives him a new affirming outlook on his life. He buys an expensive painting for his office, his intimate love life with his wife gets more lively, and he finally tells his daughter to do something, and if not he is no longer giving her money. And he ends up sticking up to others to approve Anna Delvey’s loan without actual proof of the existence of her trust fund. That’s the power of Delvey. It’s rather admirable how far things got with her swindling.
Delvey was not without devoted friends. One was a concierge named Neff (played by Alexis Floyd) an aspiring filmmaker saving money to fund her first feature film. It’s not that she is simply devoted to Delvey for giving her a one hundred dollar bill as a tip every time she does something for the fake heiress at the hotel, it’s just that she fully understands one’s got to hustle in a world full of corrupt greedy fools to get to the top. Even after it’s proven Delvey committed fraud and did nothing but lie to everyone around her, Neff still had her back.
Speaking of friends, one of my main criticisms I have of Inventing Anna is the portrayal of Rachel Deloache Williams (played by Katie Lowes), the only victim of Anna Delvey who was not rich. Netflix and the creators of this miniseries seemed to really have it in for Rachel, and it really showed. I’ll admit, it was really funny. During the whole episode about the Morocco trip, I was laughing while Rachel is tormented by the fact she unwittingly paid for the whole trip: sixty-two thousand dollars. Mostly with her company credit card. Neff and Kacy Duke felt duped by Rachel when she admitted in court to being the one who got Delvey arrested while on the run in Los Angeles. Rachel Deloache Williams did come out on top after the betrayal of her supposed friend Delvey. She has since written a best-selling book about her experience and sold the rights to HBO. I can’t wait to see what HBO has got in store for their adaptation of her book My Friend Anna.
I did feel the show seemed to draw on during the episodes after Vivian Kent’s article is published. While Kent is at an airport in Germany to find Anna Delvey’s parents for a follow-up article, there’s a flashback sequence of Anna when she’s a teenager smuggling money for her father, who’s apparently working for the Russian mob. Vivian Kent is under the assumption that the apple does not fall far from the tree. But during the whole Germany episode, I wanted the show to get right to the trial back in New York City. The whole hour-long episode of Vivian trying to talk to Anna Delvey’s real parents could have been done in just 10 minutes. It turns out Anna Delvey literally did everything on her own. No mob heritage passed down the skills needed for her to do what she did. A flashback shows her as a child in her room learning everything from fashion magazines.
All the faults with Inventing Anna are squashed by how much more interesting the exploits of Anna Delvey are compared to people like Bernie Madoff, or even the Wolf Of Wall Street‘s Jordan Belfort. Compared to those two, Anna Delvey made her way to the top by deceiving a gullible culture driven by social status, material possessions, and becoming a trending hashtag on Twitter.
By the end of Inventing Anna, I did not feel bad for Delvey, nor did I hate her at all; I just don’t want to be around her…. ever. As she’s riding to prison in a bus, the show did end with what she hated most of all: silence.
I give Inventing Anna: