This exquisite Netflix miniseries is the latest to give a fashion designer the biopic treatment – and in this instance, McGregor has enough of meat to chew on because of Roy Halston’s dazzling existence and catastrophic fall. Halston rose to prominence, thanks to a pillbox hat that gained him immediate celebrity after Jackie O donned it. But his star rose and waned, and by the time he died in 1990, he had lost all rights to his own name.
Halston’s family has reportedly labeled the show “an incorrect, fictionalized narrative,” claiming that they were not contacted throughout its production. It’s chock-full of sex, drugs, and enormous egos, so it’d be shocking if they gave it their permission. As American women turn against hats in the late 1960s, Halston is compelled to embark on the first in a series of imaginative reinventions that would ultimately revolutionize fashion in the United States.
It’s fitting for a drama set mostly in the glamor and excess of the Studio 54 celebrity circle that it’s wonderfully presented. It has a high-end appearance and exudes elegance. From Krysta Rodriguez’s lovely, adorable Liza Minnelli to Rebecca Dayan’s devoted Elsa Peretti, the performances are superb, and any TV fan who wants to witness Gilmore Girls matriarch Emily Gilmore (the brilliant Kelly Bishop) as a foul-mouthed publicist who slings off lines, her shape-shifting will excite people who say, “You’re going to come to Versailles and blast those pretentious French motherfuckers off the stage.”
Moreover, the story is framed as a conflict between art and commerce, which is an odd choice. Some viewers criticized the BBC’s rendition of The Pursuit of Love for not being “relatable” because it was about toffs. At the best of times, the question of whether stories must be accessible is debatable, but I saw The Pursuit of Love as a novel about love and freedom set in a society of toffs. The difference is that Halston takes place in a world of celebrities, but it is about the pressures of deciding what to make and how to be creative when there is too much money and not enough time.
It creates a psychological barrier between the spectator and the tale. Daniel Minahan, a TV veteran, wrote and directed the film, which comes from Ryan Murphy’s stable. Murphy executive produces and co-writes this film, and he famously inked a multibillion-dollar contract with Netflix, which has undoubtedly given him plenty of opportunities to consider if increasing production means sacrificing quality.
That said, you’ll be won over by Halston, excesses, business difficulties, and all, by the end of this engaging and frequently extremely amusing play. One sequence, in particular, is brilliantly shot, as two exes silently gnaw on the remnants of their relationship, one for money and the other for love. This is the show’s beating heart, and it’s a shame it can’t seem to figure out where it belongs. It seemed to be a bit too enamored by its own self.