Inventing Anna

Tale of a young female entrepreneur’s fall from grace or a con-artist facing justice?


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Comparison between Anna Sorokin in court and the actress Julia Garner playing the role of Anna in Shonda Rhime’s Netflix series Inventing Anna.

Anna Delvey, a wealthy German heiress and soon to be founder of the Anna Delvey Foundation. Or maybe it was Anna Sorokin, a Russian immigrant, and daughter of a local businessman who owned a small heating-and-cooling company. Looking back, it may be clear that Anna was a fraud posing under a fake identity, or a young wannabe socialite that was way over her head. Despite these realistic suspicions that had crossed the minds of New York’s elite, she had the entire city fooled for years.

On February 11th, 2022 Netflix released a limited series, “Inventing Anna”, chronicling the journey of an investigative journalist that broke the story on Anna Sorokin. The article, “Maybe She Had So Much Money She Just Lost Track of It” was published in New York Magazine on June 10th, 2018, and was written by Jessica Pressler. While the Netflix series is based on Pressler’s article, Shonda Rhimes, creator of “Inventing Anna,” frequently reminds viewers with a disclaimer, “This whole story is completely true… except for all the parts that are totally made up.”

The name Shonda Rhimes might ring a bell, as she is the esteemed creator of the TV phenomenon “Grey’s Anatomy” among other highly accredited shows. In true Hollywood fashion, Rhimes weaves drama, power, and sex into the story of Sorokin’s climb into Manhattan’s elite society of art and finance. In Pressler’s original article, she reveals that Anna stole a private jet, swindled over $200,000 from hotels, and attempted to scam Fortress Investment Group and City National Bank out of 22 million dollars to finance her lofty project of creating an elite social club, otherwise known as the Anna Delvey Foundation.

The Netflix series begins to deviate from Pressler’s original storyline when the details of the criminal trial are recounted in an entertaining fashion. Other minor variations in the plotline are included for a dramatic flair, such as the pregnant journalist playing Pressler, Vivian Kent, writing the article until her water breaks in her office cubicle. However, the most controversial choice from a production and writing standpoint was Rhimes’s decision to glorify unethical reporting. According to Emily Palmer, a New York Times reporter, “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,” Palmer says. “In the real world — or at least in the journalism world — that could have been the story’s biggest scandal.” In the series, Vivian plays a discredited journalist who finds Anna’s story as her shot at redemption. Her desperation reaches such great lengths that Kent brings Anna underwear while in prison and helps catalog evidence with Anna’s lawyer. In reality, Pressler did receive inquiry and negative attention after failing to fact-check certain claims in an article published in 2014. Despite this, Pressler’s reputation was far from disgraced, and according to Sorokin, her decision to go to trial despite professional advice was her own.

As with many tales produced in Hollywood, every storyline must be taken with a grain of salt even if the events being portrayed are based on a true story. If any Netflix connoisseurs are intrigued by Sorokin’s story, Rhimes’ embellishment of the plotline should not be the deterring motive. The entertainment industry is not subject to as strict of regulations for storytelling as the world of journalism, and there is no shame in sitting back and divulging in a bag of popcorn to watch the tale of an ambitious women’s journey of conquering Manhattan. Palmer reminds readers, “There’s no sense in letting facts get in the way of a good tale.”