(See our review of Episodes 1-4 here).
We have watched the rest of the series, so that you don’t have to. In particular, we exhort you to never ever expose yourself to episode 9, which is without doubt the worst courtroom episode of a tv series ever made and possibly the worst episode of any tv series ever made.
Before we get to that rubbish bit of drama though, our favourite Russian conwoman Anna Sorokin/Delvey (Julia Garner) and her hapless hangers-on go to Morocco. Anna’s treat. They stay at the sort of resort that the Kardashians frequent. Morocco is beautiful but scary. If you have bad dreams in which your credit card is rejected, there is a truly tense scene in episode 5 of this otherwise suspense-free series that will give you night terrors. It’s played to great effect by Tracy Ullman lookalike (Katie Lowes as Rachel) who should know better by now. Rachel covers Anna’s Moroccan debts of $US62,000 on her personal and work credit cards. This can’t end well. It doesn’t. When Rachel scoots from Morocco because she’s finally wising-up (thanks to her boyfriend, more on this later), Anna demands that the resort take her to the airport by helicopter. They don’t. Anna can’t pay for her airfare from Morocco and asks her friend Kacy Duke (Laverne Cox) to pay. When Kacy agrees, Anna asks if she can buy her a first class ticket. She can’t. But these woman are only wising-up now because their boyfriends and husbands repeatedly tell their womenfolk, “Hey! Wise up! Anna’s scamming you!” That’s their sole job. Naturally, when Rachel reports a crime the police are all male and contemptuous and laugh at the silly girly. They’ve got real man work to do. Men!
Meanwhile eye-rolling, face-scrunching journalist Vivian Kent (Anna Chlumsky) has set up a pointless murder-investigation-style wall in the nursery at her house. Because when you are a journalist it is necessary to join photographs with red string for no reason at all. Oh no…a nursery…dear God, there’s a birth scene coming up. There’s a not-at-all derivative and not-at-all cliched scene first though, when we learn just how much of a trooper Vivian is. Vivian is on the phone trying to get that very last confirmation for her story which must be filed this minute! She’s actually in labour! She gets the ok not a second too soon and her husband hurries her off to hospital, while the entire staff of Manhattan magazine stand and applaud. Honest. Until this point the sole job of the men in Vivian’s office is to either be yelled at by her because they don’t value her, or to be in her gang and help her out with juicy tidbits about Anna which they apparently can find when she cannot. (These supportive and amusing gang members are also useful for throwing in the odd anti-Trump comment so that we know what time we are in and that we are on the side of the angels). After Vivian’s story takes off, of course all the men in the office adore her. Men!
Unfortunately, Vivian’s child has to be born and there’s nothing we can do about it. What a moment for an overacting (cervix-owing) actor. A birth scene. The best thing ever. Chlumsky chews the hell out of this one. Truly we reach Dunaway levels of over acting. Indeed, we are approaching O’Toole level. (He could never have been rivalled of course, had he owned a cervix). Naturally there’s a crisis during the birth, but all is well and Vivian is delivered of a little mite she can grimace at.
Vivian has to zoom off to Germany to investigate Anna a little more. She has to go today! Anna’s husband’s job is to support her and he doesn’t like it. “You’ve only just given birth!” Chlumsky’s whole face gymnastics during dialogue get even more peculiar when there’s a language barrier. So, when her facial muscles are worn out, she hires a translator which is really good because it calls for lots of expository dialogue. There’s yet more expository dialogue when a psychiatrist sits at the bedside of a hospital patient in the way that psychiatrists don’t, and when Anna’s lawyer and his wife have dinner with Vivian and her supportive husband for some reason.
In addition to Chlumsky’s heliographing of every emotion, the viewer is distracted by an enormously tall transgender woman playing Kacy (based on a real person who is not transgender), by the adult Delvey’s bad wigs and the young Sorokin’s ludicrous coloured contact lenses. And there’s always Irritating Anna’a accent, “Ah rahmembah waht he tahld me”. Vivian does gain some insight into Anna’s mindset and the potential sources of her fantasies. There are some useful coincidences. While Anna and her translator are engaging in expository dialogue on the street by a picturesque takeaway van, a passing pedestrian hears the name “Anna” and chimes in. “Do you mean Anna Sorokin?” Of course they do. Anna is such a rare name in Germany. The passer-by went to school with Anna Sorokin! So soon a whole lot of Anna’s former schoolmates get together to give Vivian some exposition on Anna’s school days which were basically Mean Girls meets Heathers meets Clueless. Vivian’s gonna need a lot of red string.
Then there’s the final episode about which we can say little without spoilers (and we are weary enough to know that some of you will watch it, despite our warnings). Let us just say that in the thousands of hours that the TVC reviewers have spent in courtrooms, we have never seen a Judge on the bench drinking a huge Starbucks iced coffee, or known a trial to be held up because a defendant who is in custody wanted to change her outfit. Nor have we known a lawyer who agreed to let a journalist see all of the discovered material he has, because said face-pulling journalist did a spot of shopping for him.
There are again, some beautiful interiors and clothes in Inventing Anna. There are echoes of the movie Shattered Glass. (A teenage techno-scammer, an imagined audience). But not enough pretty stuff and only echoes of a much better production.