Minimalist designs and an attitude best-suited to a famed fashionista, the life of Roy Halston Frowick brings to mind the many greats of the clothing industry. Halston, the latest miniseries from Netflix, does well to have Halston (Ewan McGregor) brush shoulders with the giants of the fashion world. Those intricacies of the insider would be both valuable and necessary to how Halston the man is brought to life. It is the stark contrast of man and business that makes the most sense. Charting a rise and fall in five episodes is no small feat. Lavish presentation is not only necessary but a requirement. Sleek modernism to detail the processes of the past. That is the new age of entertainment, and Halston appears ready to engage with that.
“God bless Jackie Kennedy,” and one quick cut later, “Fuck Jackie Kennedy,” says Halston. It shows the parallels of the man simply and effectively enough. Surrounded by luxuriant sets and clothing, McGregor thrives here. He holds within him the effectiveness and cunning needed to bring the fashion mogul to life. Frustrated creatives with a genius complex are ten a penny in the fictional world, but bringing a real one to life in fiction is a hard task. McGregor’s performance is delightful. There is a sly substance to his role here, and he delights in bringing that to the screen. With Bill Pullman and Kelly Bishop in strong supporting roles, McGregor is given that much-needed push. Versatile enough to offer something new in such a phenomenal career, his five-episode run strikes confidence in displaying such a compelling figure, with visual changes and remarkable strain put on the shoulders of Halston. His youthful looks ebb away, and the format is fast enough to make such changes natural, but noticeable too.
Great fashion, plenty of drugs, and as the roaring soundtrack crashes through, Halston is there to give audiences a great romp through the 1980s. Substance abuse and self-indulgence make for a prominently persistent topic within Halston. They are used as montage fodder but also create grand character studies of those around Halston. Their influence on the eponymous fashion mogul is never explored. He had friends in high places, but their impact on his work, life or death is never discussed in much detail. What does ring true though are some nice moments of dark humour. Throwaway jokes about corpses in Calvin Klein and nods to the culture around Halston and his troupe are nicely managed by director Daniel Minahan.
Capturing the clothing and style, the sight and sound of Halston’s life, Halston is good but lacks sentimentality and emotion. It is that usual Icarus story we audience members know and love. Hitting the highs, dealing with the lows, Halston has it all. If, by all, you mean both. Not much else outside of that. An episodic biopic should be of little surprise, but at least it has some worthwhile moments within. Minahan’s direction adopts the decree of the fashion mogul attitude. He is full of it, crashes through with some new ideas, but never develops them past the point of offence to the Frowick family. Great performances pave the way as McGregor steals the show and delights in a role tailor-made for him.