‘Inventing Anna’ review: Netflix miniseries puts focus in the wrong place, watering down Anna Delvey’s juicy true story

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Rhimes has populated the show with a number of familiar faces from his ABC/”Scandal” days, but the marquee pieces go to Julia Garner (“Ozark”), wearing an accent apparently inspired by Balki in “Perfect Strangers” and Anna Chlumsky (“Veep”). Even though Garner’s character, Anna Delvey, actually sounded that way, listening to her for nine episodes borders on a distraction at best, and a bewildering ordeal at worst.
While taking liberties with the story, the underlying bones of it are quite sensational: Delvey, a “false heiress”, seduced Manhattan’s elite and the banks, sneaking into high society before the walls crumble and land her in a courtroom. .

Delvey lived the good life, crafting an image that fooled many and left many reluctant to discuss their relationships with her. This included expenses like a $62,000 trip to Morocco, with a friend (played by “Scandal’s” Katie Lowes) holding the bill.

Anna’s story was difficult to decipher, in part because of the reluctance of those she deceived. Enter Chlumsy’s Vivian, who doggedly pursues Anna and her friends, trying to expose not only what happened, but who Anna really is and where that particular accent might have come from. (The show is based on an article in Jessica Pressler’s New York Magazine.)

Strictly as a viewing proposition, it doesn’t help that most episodes are over an hour long, which leads to some sluggishness in the storytelling. So does a structure that shifts the focus to a different brand of Anna in each chapter, jumping back in time before reaching trial and ultimately deciding her fate.

Along the way, Vivian and Anna have several prison interviews, but we’re supposed to accept that the reporter has befriended her — or at least finds her oddly endearing, for reasons that seem frankly mystifying — even then. that she struggles to meet her deadline, hold her life together and, oh yeah, have a baby.

If that sounds like a lot, it is, with an often whimsical tone. Flashbacks generally work better than Vivian’s part of the story, which serves as a reminder that portraying the practice of journalism in drama can be a tricky proposition, with plenty of duds for every “All the President’s Men.”

These criticisms don’t completely undermine the flesh of the story and the schadenfreude of how all these favored masters and mistresses of the universe were so easily deceived. But that ultimately makes “Inventing Anna” a bit of a grind — a series that seeks to be a little too inventive for its own good.

“Inventing Anna” premieres February 11 on Netflix.

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