Netflix Review – Halston (2021)

Ewen McGregor stars as the legendary fashion designer in this latest Ryan Murphy production, created by Sharr White.

Halston starts at the beginning, beginning of Halston’s career that is, touching on his childhood only as reflections of his actions later in his life. We are carried through his life with the fashion brand being the front and centre at all plot points – from the success of his hat designs to redefining himself as an all-round designer to losing control of his own brand and name.

Sadly, the series failed to arrest my attention. The pacing is bad – slow and plodding, with too much focus on boring details – and the highs and lows of emotion in the story just don’t feel that different from each other so the whole thing is a pretty flat. For a five-hour biopic about one man, there is a significant lack of depth. There are times when depth is attempted – a perfume expert played by Vera Farmiga delves a little and the ending gets it right – but everything else is rather surface level. Perhaps this is due to too much focus on the brand and the business side of things with an awful lot of discussion happening around shareholders and profits.

Luckily, the whole thing is saved from the absolute depths of boredom by some excellent performances – namely that of McGregor in the titular role. He’s completely convincing with the voice and the ebbing-and-flowing intensity of the character. He manages to capture the anger and joy and flamboyance of Halston without making it a caricature. Krysta Rodriguez as Liza Minnelli also does a fantastic job throughout, with her rendition of “Liza with a Z” being particularly memorable.  Despite her short screen time, Vera Farmiga left an impression while the portrayal of Halston’s long-term on-and-off boyfriend Victor Hugo by Gian Franco Rodriguez, was very impressive – in fact it made their relationship perhaps the most interesting story of the whole series.

Where Halston does manage to come alive is in the moments of spectacle. As previously mentioned, the Minnelli performances are very enjoyable and the fashion show at Versailles is impressive and exciting. But most of all in, the final spectacle of the dance show when Halston watches the dancers in his costumes and sees on stage all the designs he’s done over the years – it’s genuinely a moving and insightful moment, perhaps the only one. So the series ends on a high, a moment of beauty, but upon reflection that just makes me wonder why couldn’t they have taken that approach for the rest of the series?

So despite the performances, visual spectacle and excellent costume design, Halston just doesn’t hit the mark because the whole time you’re wondering why you should care about any of it. For a series about a man who redefined women’s clothing in America, it’s nothing revolutionary.

★★★


Biography, Drama | USA, 2021 | 15 | 14th May 2021 | Netflix | 5 Episodes | Dir.Daniel Minahan | Ewan McGregor, Krysta Rodriguez, Gian Franco Rodriguez, David Pittu, Vera Farmiga, Bill Pullman,