3/5 stars “This whole story is completely true. Except for all the parts that are totally made up,” is the declaration that opens each episode of Inventing Anna , the latest series from hitmaker Shonda Rhimes under her deal with Netflix. This nine-part account of the life and crimes of supposed heiress-turned-New York socialite Anna Sorokin , also known as Anna Delvey, details how the diminutive blonde with a peculiar accent defrauded Wall Street and high society luminaries. Inspired by Jessica Pressler’s New York Magazine article “How Anna Delvey Tricked New York’s Party People”, Inventing Anna follows journalist Vivian Kent (Anna Chlumsky) as she investigates Delvey following her arrest on 10 counts of grand larceny. She seeks out various bankers, hoteliers, property agents, socialites and fashion-lovers who were sucked into Anna’s orbit, but also approaches the mysterious woman herself (played by an unrecognisable Julia Garner), imprisoned at Rikers Island, New York’s main jail complex. Over the course of the show, they develop an abrasive, tentative rapport – trading details for designer underwear – all while Vivian is just weeks away from giving birth to her first child. The extent of Anna’s grift unfolds in a series of flashbacks, with each episode focusing on a different oblivious, naive or money-grubbing victim. The series leaves us guessing about Anna’s origins, upbringing, family and wealth. We suspect her claims of a US$60 million trust fund, locked away in a complicated European banking system, are exaggerated at best . Yet, time and time again, she is able to fob people off with the promise of incoming wire transfers that never materialise, while running up wince-inducing hotel bills and credit card debts that are never repaid. After establishing herself within the snobbish yet achingly superficial circles of New York high society, Anna unveils her grand scheme: the Anna Delvey Foundation, an exclusive members club and creatives’ refuge in the heart of Manhattan. Exploiting her boyfriend, self-serving tech bro Chase (Saamer Usmani), for his cash and contacts, she moves on to old-money socialite Nora (Kate Burton), who introduces her to the city’s most prestigious architects, designers, restaurateurs and financiers, all falling over each other to get a piece of ADF, which promises to be the city’s ultimate VIP hotspot. Vivian is also able to track down Anna’s cabal of BFFs, mostly thanks to her high-profile and hugely prolific Instagram account. Hotel concierge Neff (Alexis Floyd), Vanity Fair staffer Rachel (Katie Lowes) and personal trainer Kasy (Laverne Cox) all believed they knew the real Anna, the true friend behind the luxury wardrobe and oversized glasses, but the more Vivian tugs on the threads of their friendship, the more everything starts to unravel. A Hong Kong Anna Delvey: the rise and fall of socialite Azura Garner’s impressively off-key performance ensures that Anna remains a baffling enigma. Despite always appearing in the right place wearing the right thing, and knowing exactly what to order or what to say, Anna cast a slight, almost dainty figure, was relatively plain-looking, and was cold and calculating. And that accent – a bizarre hodgepodge of indistinct East European inflections – is impossible to place. Anna claimed she spoke seven languages, yet is caught out by the most simple of phrases. Was it all an affectation? Did Anna even know what was true any more? The show’s best decision is aligning Vivian’s struggle with Anna’s, as both women hustle to get their respective projects over the finish line in a male-dominated, money-driven society. Burdened by a past journalistic blunder, Vivian has been banished to the darkest corner of the office, where a trio of ageing old-school hacks have been left to their own devices. Inevitably, these insufferably accommodating veterans are all too willing to assist in countless hours of research and legwork, leaving Vivian free to hound Anna’s long-suffering lawyer (Arian Moayed) for access to her case files. Arriving just a week after the documentary film The Tinder Swindler , Inventing Anna manages to be more than just another tale of an opportunistic wannabe taking the wealthy for a ride, even as it fulfils its duties as a larger-than-life sensationalist thrill ride from the creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Bridgerton . Inventing Anna is brazen, unsubtle, yet undeniably entertaining and, as it’s Netflix, about three episodes too long. It blows its vast budget following Anna as she jet sets from Ibiza, Spain, to Marrakech, Morocco, while the costume department works overtime emulating her immaculate sense of style. Inventing Anna is ultimately seduced by the same superficiality it is purportedly condemning, and falls short of its goal of being a skewering exposé of a sex- and money-driven patriarchy. But, truth be told, it’s precisely the show’s glossy, trashy tabloid quality that makes it so enjoyable to watch. Inventing Anna is streaming on Netflix.