That Cass

May 25, 2021

3 min read

Halston (2021) Review

Due to a lackluster rating of the first six episodes of Bojack Horseman’s series premiere, IndieWire changed its review policy on Netflix shows, requiring reviewers to review an entire season of a show, rather than the first half, hoping to garner more accurate ratings. For this reason among many, I’m thankful to not be employed by IndieWire (or any institution with somesuch policy), as being sentenced to watch anything beyond the first two episodes of Halston would be a punishment beyond which I was capable of committing a crime to match.

With every passing year my enthusiasm for biopics dwindles (fuck the Social Network, I have yet to hear a convincing argument for why it’s a good movie) and Halston is just another excuse for me to write off the genre as a whole. It’s a Netflix original, so naturally the show is properly exposed and even employs a few bigger names. However, the likes of Ewan McGregor and Rory Culkin (yes, Neflix spared no expense, even tying a lesser Culkin to this project) could do little to save the show from its script. The subject matter should have been interesting enough- until two precious hours ago I had no idea who “Halston” was, but “high budget” and “couture” is a pair that always catches my eye (a younger version of me would also have been enamored with the promise of “misunderstood genius,” but I’m too old for fairytales), but alas, Halston barrels through all the classic biopic pitfalls as if they were revelations. Even Halston’s character cycles through the list of long-suffering archetypes assigned to fictionalized celebrity figures. At one moment, he’s filled with recycled zingers (because, we haven’t beat “charming asshole” to death), the next he’s an “outcast,” giving a [wannabe] heart-wrenching monologue to a man he hopes to seduce. Perhaps the most offensive iteration of Halston’s character is that of the mentor. Designed to assumably increase both his likability, as well as convince the audience further of his “genius” and influence, Halston’s relationship with the young designer Schumacher does neither. Instead, in one of the most cringe inducing moments of the show, Halston yells at the kid to stop shooting speed, ya know, because it’s bad and Halston cares. This scene also indicts another massive hitch for the show: the dialogue is cookie cutter, making it difficult to become invested in inspirational or emotional moments. Instead of cheering when Liza convinces Halston to go through with a Versailles fashion show, despite missing an entire dress as well as a backdrop, I found myself rolling my eyes. What about this character is Liza Minelli exactly? The make-up? The bubbly attitude? It felt like watching a re-skinned Ryan Murphy moment, complete with the melodramatic exposition clumsily inserted into the scene. The actual costuming of the show IS wonderful, and if there is one thing that does succeed in convincing you that Halston is talented, it’s the actual clothes. The caftan runway scene in particular was a joy to watch, and the color choice was spectacular for the camera. However, the actual show offers no motivation to spend watch eight hours watching it instead of scrubbing through a few fashion show clips. All and all, I recommend googling Halston’s work for the curious, and watching Arrested Development (also on Netflix) for a hit of Liza Minelli.