Recent Ryan Murphy productions have a knack for being incredibly stylized but lacking substance. When it comes to fashion icon Halston, Ryan Murphy’s latest biopic suffers from that exact issue.
With Ewan McGregor in the driver’s seat and a condensed 5 episode run-time, Halston is a good introduction to the icon from the 70’s but does very little to actually dive into the psyche and details surrounding this enigmatic designer’s life.
For those unaware, Roy Halston Frowick (or Halston as he’s mononymously known as) was an American fashion designer who rose to international fame in the 1970’s. He redefined American fashion during this time, thanks in part to designing a pillbox hat for Jackie Kennedy during the presidential inauguration in 1961.
He soon rose to international fame, sporting numerous wins along the way – including a prolific perfume range. Things inevitably take a turn for the worst though when his company is bought out. This journey forms the crux of drama in Netflix’s latest mini-series.
Those looking for an in-depth examination of the prolific fashion designer will not find that here. Instead, Halston feels like an introduction to the enigmatic man; a heavily stylized, sexed-up version of an icon. While there’s nothing wrong with that, there’s also nothing here to really grab you and keep your attention throughout the five episodes.
Given what an interesting life this man had, the fact that most of the material here plays out in such a pedestrian and predictable manner is a real shame.
The biggest problem though comes from the lack of attention to Halston’s mental state. There are a few instances where the show looks close to diving into a much deeper and reflective state but the show never pulls the trigger to allow this to blossom. Instead, we’re straight back into another stylish montage or beautifully produced clothing line to be showcased.
Despite the plot issues, Ewan McGregor certainly makes this role his own. Although one could argue that the melodramatic elements do feel a bit caricatured, McGregor plays with a swagger, charisma and charm that lights up every scene he’s in. There are some absolutely wonderful segments here that really allow this actor to breathe, but it’s a pity that the editing cuts far too early during a period of vulnerability.
Stylistically, Halston certainly lives up to the image of the lavish fashion world. There are some gorgeous costumes in this and the production design overall is fantastic. In terms of visuals, there’s absolutely no denying that Halston is a glitzy feast for the eyes.
Of course, visuals are only one half of the TV pie. While the exterior may look beautifully presented, the interior feels far too safe and in desperate need of more flavour.
With some depth and a couple of episodes exploring Halston’s mental state in more detail, this could easily be one of 2021’s finer mini-series. As it stands, Netflix’s latest original is simply “okay.” It’s escapist entertainment at its best and a cliff-notes version of an enigmatic man that’s never quite given enough of the spotlight in the areas that really matter.