If anyone still wondered if Anna Delvey truly loved Chase, episode 5 of Inventing Anna put the question the rest. She didn’t. How do we know? Because in this episode, we see Anna with someone she truly does care about: Neff. The one person who Anna chose not to hurt. And perhaps the only person who would still love Anna, whether she’s living on Park Avenue or a park bench.
The Real Thing
For all that Anna’s con artistry leads her to a life of glamour, it also must be exhausting. She has to be “on” all the time. She can never slip, never really trust anyone or let anyone in. Or her whole house of cards collapses. On some level, her choices must lead her to live a fairly lonely existence.
Is that why she befriends Neff? Or is it because she sees some of herself in her? Neff is, in many ways, the person Anna could have been, if she’d chosen to live her life on the straight and narrow. Smart, but overlooked. Ambitious and hard-working, but on a slow path to success. Living adjacent to the rich and glamorous, but not really one of the crowd.
Whatever first drew her to Neff, it’s clear that this relationship differs from Anna’s usual fare. Neff isn’t someone Anna can really get something from. Other than the inside track to some VIP lists (which Neff takes care of fairly early on in their dynamic), Neff has nothing to give Anna – nothing that will serve her greater purpose.
In the world of Inventing Anna, at least, Anna’s friendship with Neff may be the only real thing about her.
And Neff is the only one who gets a glimpse of the truth under the facade and isn’t punished for it. Even after seemingly turning against her. Anna has cut people off in the past for far less. Particularly since she’d previously slipped and suggested that her beginnings were far less opulent than she’s pretending. Even as she pays Ness back what she owes – making her the only person she ever paid back. More than that, she pays her outstanding hotel bill, saving Neff’s job and reputation, when she could have just cut ties as she seemingly did with every other hotel. When Neff apologizes for her moment of doubt, Anna could leave with a cutting remark, as she did with others before. But she doesn’t. She still extends a hand in friendship.
Gotta Have Faith
Is there any wonder that, of all the people in Anna’s life, Neff is the only one who remains true to her? Others were members of Anna’s entourage, but (at least in Rachel’s case), they were as much “takers” from her as she was from other people. But for Neff, it doesn’t really seem to matter where Anna’s money comes from. Or even if it’s all ill-gotten gains. She believes in Anna. Even after the truth has supposedly come out.
It seems almost inexplicable, but whether Anna is exactly who she presented herself to be throughout the course of their friendship doesn’t really matter. To Neff, she’s the real deal. She’s what she pretends to be if not who – a woman who’s got a good head for business and is getting the job done. Where the money comes from? That’s just details.
As much as Neff believes in Anna, though, the faith seems to be reciprocated. Is it because she sees something of herself in her friend? Who knows? But even as Anna encourages Neff to leap and a parachute will appear, the differences in their approach to the world is clear. Anna lives in a fantasy, where anyone could be anything if they go for it. Neff lives in a much harsher reality.
Because the ugly truth is, Neff is right that not everyone has a parachute. Even if she had Anna’s mercenary intent, would someone who looks like her be able to make it as far as Anna did? Would those doors that opened so (relatively) easily to the vaguely Western-maybe-Eastern-it’s-unclear-but-certainly-somewhere-in-there European Anna open as wide or as readily to a Black woman? Heck, not even as readily. Ever. Would the members of upper crust society, all those old white faces who make deals behind closed doors, ever let someone like Neff into their midst?
Anna frequently points out that the world would respond to her differently if she were a man. She doesn’t seem to realize or appreciate that they would respond to her differently still if she looked like Neff.
Mistakes From The Past
After several episodes of hinting at what brought about Vivian Kent’s downfall, this episode finally brings answers. She pursued a story. A fluff piece, really. She had reservations, which she brought to her editor and friend (at the time) Paul. He was supposed to help fact check, and he didn’t. And when push came to shove, she got thrown under a bus and he got promoted.
It doesn’t just explain why she’s determined to find a story. It explains why she’s drawn to this story. Why is she obsessed with a con woman? Because she was herself – on a much smaller scale – conned. She lost as much as many of Anna’s victims did. Her job. Her reputation. Even her dignity. And, like so many of Anna’s so-called “friends,” Vivian was ghosted when the so-called truth came out.
So for Vivian, it isn’t surprising that she keeps trying to figure out now just the who but the how? How did Anna get away with it for so long? How did she draw so many people in? Even, on a more personal level, how did Anna read her well enough to be able to hurt her feelings?
Maybe Vivian thinks that, in getting to the bottom of what makes Anna tick, she’ll find a way to come to peace with the con that brought her down, as well. But getting to the heart of Anna Delvey…well, that’s easier said than done.
Inventing Anna is streaming now on Netflix.
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