Saturday, February 12, 2022

REVIEW: 'Inventing Anna' - Neff Details a Time When Genuine Friendship Altered Anna's Behavior in 'Check Out Time'

Netflix's Inventing Anna - Episode 1.05 "Check Out Time"

A past blunder throws Vivian off balance while delving into Anna's stay at a swanky hotel, where she befriended - and lavishly tipped - concierge Neff.

"Check Out Time" was written by Carolyn Ingber Lewinsky & Abby Ajayi and directed by Ellen Kuras

Speaking with Vivian about Anna doesn't typically bring people closer to her once more. And yet, Neff needs more of an understanding from Vivian in order to gain the strength to visit Anna in prison. Vivian and Todd are annoyed about Anna's antics and demands. They have to carefully tiptoe around her emotional instability because they are the only people from the outside world she is interacting with. Their lives are consumed by Anna. Vivian needs to understand every nuance of this story in order to publish it. Meanwhile, Todd is mining through the boxes of discovery hoping to craft a compelling defense on her behalf. Neff's relationship with Anna is different for the sheer fact that she was ultimately repaid. Anna ensures that Neff isn't fired from her job at the hotel. That's different from all the previous ways in which she has cut people out of her life. This isn't even an end for them. It's a genuine friendship. One that allowed Anna the freedom to be in one place and let her guard down a little bit. Once the story pivots around money once more, then she reverts to old habits. Vivian can see clearly that Anna stayed in one place for so long because of Neff. She admired that friendship. At first, Neff was treated as nothing more than an executive assistant. She was available for Anna no matter what. Over time, it evolved into something more. Yes, it was always driven by the money. Anna loved tipping the people around her. People were drawn to her because of what she can spend on them. Those friends disappeared after Anna was arrested. They dismissed the idea of Neff wanting to see Anna in prison. This relationship was never more than a con. They were playing each other. They had to take advantage of Anna's financial resources and Anna needed some fun as she waited for her loan to be approved. Neff believes in the business Anna is trying to build. She still denies being fooled by her. She saw the tangible plans. Things were in motion. Anna knew how to walk through this world. She was on top of everything. That bought her the ability to get away with so much. Again, that's the constant theme of this series. She tells a story until she starts believing it herself. Cracks of the lies form and should be questioned. But this is a time of celebration for Anna. She has gotten farther than she ever could have planned. She may be terrified that it could all catch up to her eventually. That's mostly just speculation on Vivian's part.

Unfortunately, Vivian remains the problematic aspect at the center of the story. Her fellow writers are kept in a neat, precise box. They only exist to help her report out the details of this story. It's not even until this episode that they mention working on their own pieces. And yet, Vivian is expected to have more complexity. That means an entire backstory has been introduced about her being punished for a story that was ultimately proven untrue. That has always just been something alluded to. It explained her position and her needing to prove herself at the company she works at. But it was always presented as something that needed to be more pivotal. It's not ultimately worth it to spend all the time delving into those details. Vivian does break down and confesses the extent of the scandal. She is required to do so because the story is going public. Her life will only further be defined by that one mistake. She will be shamed because of it. She will no longer have the credibility to report any story. That's important as a journalist. People need to trust the voices reporting out the news. We need to know that they act with integrity and have done all the necessary due diligence to get to the objective truth. That's become an increasingly more polarizing topic in recent years. Vivian is at the center of that minefield. But it's also a traditional story of a woman being punished while a man's greater sins lead to a promotion. It shares similarities with Anna's own journey. That's meant to bring the two characters together. They have so much that they can see in each other. It's an unnecessary comparison. It suggests that that is the only way in which Vivian can dig deep into the details with the awareness of how important they are. Journalism requires that understanding of human behavior. Vivian sees the details that make up a person's intention and ambition. It's not until the end though that she tells off Paul for how he betrayed her. It's empowering. It's simply distracting in a series that is already bloated to the extreme. It's better to spend time with Alexis Floyd perfectly nailing Shonda Rhimes dialogue. That isn't an easy feat. Plenty of actors here have worked with Rhimes before. Floyd is the one who brings out compassion and intrigue from Neff. It's just unfortunate that so much is undercut by the need to place Vivian as the one positioning how the audience should feel about each development she uncovers.