What links a slew of grifter TV shows to a strip club hustle and Son of Sam?

Inventing Anna, The Dropout, The Tinder Swindler … follow them down the rabbit hole via J-Lo and Gwyneth Paltrow to reach a killer ending

Just grifting

We’re in a golden age of grifter TV, with Amanda Seyfried as blood-test scammer Elizabeth Holmes in The Dropout, and the shocking Netflix rom-con doc The Tinder Swindler. Not to mention Inventing Anna, the Neftlix/Shonda Rhimes telling of the story of Anna Delvey (AKA Sorokin), the fake heiress who scammed her way through Manhattan society. She’s also inspired a book, a podcast, a play, and an art installation. Don’t read your reviews – weigh them.

Amanda Seyfriend
Grifter TV shows include The Dropout (starring Amanda Seyfried) and Inventing Anna … Photograph: Hulu

The mother of invention

Inventing Anna is based on a 2018 New York magazine article by Jessica Pressler. In 2019, another Pressler piece was turned into Lorene Scafaria’s film Hustlers, about a group of strippers who stripped their wealthy clients of their assets. Jennifer Lopez was excellent as the hustler-in-chief.

Jennifer Lopez
… based on an article by Jessica Pressler, whose piece about strippers was made into a film starring Jennifer Lopez … Photograph: Getty Images

Jenny and Benny from the block

J-Lo is on a good run, not least in the reboot of her “Bennifer” relationship with Ben Affleck. The original 2000s iteration is revisited in the new podcast Just Like Us. Before Bennifer, there was Paltfleck (not an actual title), when he dated Gwyneth Paltrow, whom he met when they starred in Shakespeare in Love.

Gwyneth Paltrow
… who had a relationship with Ben Affleck, who also dated Gwyneth Paltrow … Photograph: Getty Images

High society

Hollywood royalty she may be – Steven Spielberg is her godfather – but Paltrow had to start somewhere, and this included an uncredited cameo in John Singleton’s 1995 campus drama Higher Learning. The film is flawed, but it has an impressive ensemble cast with Omar Epps, Ice Cube, Kristy Swanson, Jennifer Connelly, Laurence Fishburne and Michael Rapaport.

Michael Rapaport
… who had a cameo in Higher Learning starring Michael Rapaport … Photograph: Getty Images

Summer of scam

In 2000, Rapaport was in Spike Lee’s provocative blackface satire, Bamboozled. A year earlier, Lee made Summer of Sam, about serial killer David Berkowitz – AKA Son of Sam. Fast forward several decades, and you get to Netflix’s Inventing Anna deal. Sorokin was reportedly paid $320,000 for her life story, although New York’s Son of Sam law was invoked, which stops convicted criminals profiting from publicity about their misdeeds. Most of the money has been paid out to her victims.

Julia Garner in Inventing Anna
… who was in Bamboozled by Spike Lee, who made a film about Son of Sam, was law was invoked to stop its eponymous scammer profiting from Inventing Anna. Photograph: AP

Pairing notes

Watch There’s solid swindling in Stephen Frears’ 1990 neo-noir The Grifters, or from Rosamund Pike in I Care A Lot, with a deliciously amoral turn from Rosamund Pike.

Eat SoHo’s high-end Le Coucou was Delvey’s “routing dinner spot”, and bourride – a fish stew with aioli – her go-to dish. Taste the grift!

black and white cartoon rabbits going down holes in a red line


Larry Ryan

The GuardianTramp

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