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TV/Film Culture cheat sheet: “Inventing Anna,” Florence + The Machine, and more

Mar. 3, 2022
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Binge: Inventing Anna

Anyone who badmouthed Inventing Anna online hates seeing businesswomen succeed. The nine-episode miniseries on New York grifter (and star of one of my favorite Cut articles) Anna Delvey has brought forth the same unbearable discourse as when the story first broke in 2018, but must a show be good? Is it not enough that a heavily-accented Julia Garner, who plays the titular Anna, gets in a screaming match with Stewy from Succession, who plays her lawyer? 

We can choose to look at Inventing Anna as an airy, faulty examination of the American dream that says nothing new, or as a fast-paced, amiably-packaged account of a girlboss con artist that is, frankly, so much fun. New York’s high society is so detached from my own life that the novelty of watching how rich people live never wore off, and seeing Anna scam her way through an impenetrable inner circle was so satisfying. I’m proud of her! 

The show, through using Anna’s “victims” as a paper trail, satirizes the members of this exclusive circlejerk—from the futurist boyfriend who’s more interested in raising funding for an app over actually creating it, to a celebrity-trainer-slash-life-coach whose dialogue is so ridiculous it has to be real. Even in its serious moments the series feels like a parody, and its eagerness to please makes it feel like they’re in on the joke. 

As such, the show’s weakest moments are its attempts at emotional complexity. After all, Anna is an ultra-polished product of the Netflix factory that was not made to agitate, or even say something, but to satisfy. To keep us clicking play. I didn’t care if the fictional journalist reporting on Anna’s story felt any internal conflict on whether she was commodifying Anna; I much more enjoyed seeing her work in an office reminiscent of New York Magazine, the fact that she had to pitch the piece in person, and that she never received any emails for some reason. It made me feel like I was watching capital-T Television. #FreeAnna!

Inventing Anna is streaming on Netflix.

Listen: “King” by Florence + The Machine

Florence Welch is floating in the music video for “King,” Florence + The Machine’s surprise release and their first offering from their upcoming fifth album. “There are no special effects,” one of the comments on the video said. “Florence can just do that.”

Welch is a poet first, ethereal, otherworldly being second, and in “King,” she tries to reconcile her womanhood with her art. “We argue in the kitchen about whether to have children, about the world ending and the scale of my ambition, and how much is art really worth,” the song begins. 

In a statement accompanying the single, Welch wrote of modeling herself after male performers, and now, for the first time, she feels “this tearing of my identity and my desires.” Wanting a family while being a performer, she said, might not be as simple for her as it is for her male counterparts.

I always say a prayer when female artists I like start explicitly reckoning with their womanhood in their work—it seems the impulse to sell overpriced “Fuck the Patriarchy” keychains or post unsolicited statements about Black women topping the charts is never far away. Obviously this theme is not new for many artists, including Welch, but “King” is particularly searing. It’s brutally vulnerable, and the mid-song crescendo is cathartic. It’s more confession than girl power anthem. 

Watch the music video for “King” by Florence + The Machine here.

Watch: Drive My Car (dir. Ryusuke Hamaguchi)

I try to stay away from Haruki Murakami’s books because they always draw the attention of a particular kind of guy. I’m aware this is an unfair judgment; I’m not really convinced a college girl breasting boobily down the stairs is the peak of literature, but I think they read it for the themes? Not sure. Every time the conversation turns to Murakami I space out immediately.

But because I am a complex woman, I found myself endeared by Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Oscar-nominated, three-hour adaptation of Murakami’s short story “Drive My Car.” When the opening credits appeared forty minutes into the film? Cinema! When they started driving the car? Everyone clapped.

The film, which centers on a playwright two years after his wife’s sudden death, blurs the line between reality and theater. Every word, every bout of silence, both onstage and off, feels purposeful. Grief is a common thread among the subdued characters, but it never feels weighed down, like the grief was there just for the sake of it. There’s a release, a comfort. It knew what to do with all the loss. Everyone else can have the Murakami source material—Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car is for the girlies only.

Drive My Car is streaming on HBO Max.