Have you ever stood in the check-out line at the supermarket, skimming through the tabloids on display? It’s like gorging yourself on salacious gossip and juicy innuendo.
That’s the feeling you get watching this new five-part Netflix mini-series, starring Scottish actor Ewan McGregor as Roy Halston Frowick, who becomes one of America’s most famous designers.
Raised in Indiana, he’d try to lift his woebegone mother’s spirits by making her hats. Growing into adulthood, he created the famous pillbox that Jacqueline Kennedy wore to her husband’s Inauguration.
Propelled by Eleanor Lambert (Kelly Bishop), Halston transitioned into haute couture, choosing young Liza Minnelli (Krysta Rodriguez) as his first muse, blending freedom with fashion, cutting fabric to flow with her dancing.
As affluent socialites popularized his shirtwaist dress and ultrasuede fabric, David Mahoney (Bill Pullman) of Norton Simon Industries supplied him with extravagant financial backing.
Meanwhile, reckless, cocaine-addicted Halston sought male prostitutes like Victor Hugo (Gian Franco Rodriguez), embracing them in an entourage that included Joel Schumacher (Rory Culkin) and jewelry designer Elsa Peretti (Rebecca Dayan).
Having lost claim to his trademark name and unable to meet deadlines, Halston was forced to work with theater costumer John David Ridge (Jack Mikesell). Later, he collaborated with Martha Graham (Mary Beth Piel) on unique “Persephone” outfits.
FYI: In the episode devoted to the orgiastic debauchery & decadence of Manhattan’s Studio 54, a disheveled woman is repeatedly denied entrance. Desperate, she tries to sneak through the air vents and perishes. Based on a real incident, it was a man’s dead body that was found.
Adapted by Sharr White from Stephen Gaines’ book “Simply Halston,” it’s directed by Daniel Minahan and produced by Ryan Murphy, offering fragmented glimpses into Halston’s ludicrous penchant for raunchy self-destruction as he snorts away admirable talent and incredible potential.
While Krysta Rodriguez barely skims Liza Minnelli’s surface and Vera Farmiga is wasted as a perfumer sniffing Victor Hugo’s jock strap, Ewan McGregor’s compelling performance is perfection personified.
On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, “Halston” is a stylistic yet sordid 7, streaming on Netflix.