Producer Ryan Murphy never works alone — “Halston” was created by Sharr White, directed by Daniel Minahan, and produced by, among others, Christine Vachon. But his stamp is easily detectable. And it hardly takes a Murphy obsessive to note the timing of a show about an artist whose creative life was ruined by attaching his name to products that didn’t represent the best use of his talents; this arrives some years into a Netflix partnership that so far has borne series that are creatively wobbly at best. Halston the man — at least according to the show bearing his name — was a creative powerhouse who, eventually, let his talent go largely wasted. That “Halston” the show similarly throws away real talent would be less frustrating if the show didn’t seem to be responding to its shortfalls in real-time.
“Halston” is an empathetic portrait of someone you wouldn’t want to work for, be in love with, or trust a great deal of money with. The American women’s fashion designer, an “artist who liked to spend money,” was audacious to put it lightly, and so too is this compelling epic about the ego that embeds you in his world of brilliant designs and self-sabotage. It doesn’t hurt that it has a career-best performance from Ewan McGregor as its center, who approaches the grandeur of Roy Halston as if the fashion designer were an actor, and matches the power of this artist who only wanted to be known by his last name. And along with exquisite costume design in depicting Halston’s rise and fall from the ‘60s to the late ‘80s, the five episodes are told with restraint and focus by director Daniel Minahan, which is not something often said about other projects from “Halston” executive producer and co-writer Ryan Murphy.
“Halston” shows off McGregor at his most sensitive and sensorial, on a level close to when he played Jesus Christ wandering the desert in the experimental “Last Days in the Desert.” It’s the way that Halston holds his long cigarettes as if made of glass, accompanying impeccably perfect posture. Episode three brings this out especially, with Halston experiencing vivid sense memory as he chooses to smell his famous perfume. It’s the deepest dive the miniseries does into his repressions, and it comes from McGregor’s brilliant, full-bodied take on the character.
The show leaves us in no doubt of Halston’s genius, and the sequences in which we see him conjure sublime dresses out of simple fabric are often unexpectedly moving. Yet for all the sex and drugs that surround it, the story itself ends up feeling somewhat sanitized. As one of its titular character’s designs, Halston is clean, sleek, and beautiful to look at – but you might find yourself wishing it was a little messier around the edges.
Final Score – [7/10]
Reviewed by – Ritika Kispotta
Follow her @KispottaRitika on Twitter (https://twitter.com/KispottaRitika)
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