REVIEW: ‘Halston’ is a Remarkably Restrained and Arresting Effort

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Halston

The Netflix limited series Halston follows the ascension of the legendary fashion designer and the moments in his life that make – and break – him an icon of his time. Wrapped up within the well-known drama of Halston’s attempt to reclaim his name from the control of his investors and their lawyers, is the more intimate exploration of Halston’s attempt to reclaim control of his very self. It’s a stylish and sordid tale delivered in the seductive package of New York City in the 1970s and 80s.

Halston is produced by Ryan Murphy and co-created by Sharr White, with Daniel Minahan directing. The series stars Rebecca Dayan, Gian Franco Rodriguez, Bill Pullman, and Krysta Rodriguez (who absolutely steals the show in her performance as Liza Minnelli). Ewan McGregor is doing some of his best work as the tortured titular Halston.

Halston’s story is familiar. The young Halston escapes the abuses of his childhood through the fantasy of fashion and creation. The chance to style First Lady Jackie Kennedy introduces the innovative designer to the fashion world and what follows is a whirlwind of luxury, fame, sex, and the inevitable crash that meets most rising stars. Halston is an icon and has it all… but somehow seeks more. Genius and tragedy are often members of the same entourage and such is the case for Halston. The series captures the blinding beauty of that rocket-fueled rise and the blaze of glory when it all comes crashing down.

Ewan McGregor’s Halston is instantly a top performance. He captures the eccentric designer in all of his strange bravado, without slipping into gauche caricature. Halston is a bit over the top. Halston is also incredibly vulnerable and sweet and impossible and complex. McGregor slips into the character beautifully and with immense humanity. It would be very easy for any actor to get lost in the voice and the mannerism, but Ewan McGregor aims for the heart of Halston.

The entirety of the series is littered with nods to the all-time greats of fashion and culture. Krysta Rodriguez’s performance as Liza Minnelli is one of the absolute best in the show and this take on the famous actress is so incredibly lovable. For fashion fans, the origin story of Tiffany and Co. designer Elsa Peretti is seamlessly woven into the larger Halston narrative and offers a peek at the greatest inspirations of the era. This is a show that is for lovers of fashion, while still reaching less luxury literate viewers on a level of heart and intrigue.

That element of heart is what really makes Halston. The series bears all the markings of a Ryan Murphy production – sexually graphic, dripping in aesthetic, and happy to place style over substance – but it exercises some level of restraint. It’s quintessentially Murphy but has a grounded quality and a focus on the human crisis of Halston that makes this particular work feel more mature and capable. Halston, at the end of the day, is just looking for the love and safety that he was sorely missing as a child. Seeing that trauma play out in the man, tortured and yet still hopeful that beauty can save him, is sobering… and bittersweet.

Halston is a great beauty of television, with all the glitter and glamour that the legacy of Halston would warrant. Beneath the stylish exterior is a capable and moving meditation on how lonely it can really be at the top. Ewan McGregor is on a whole other level, delivering a performance strong enough to demolish any shortcomings the series may have.

Halston is now streaming exclusively on Netflix.

 

Halston
  • 9/10
    Rating - 9/10
9/10

TL;DR

Halston is a great beauty of television, with all the glitter and glamour that the legacy of Halston would warrant. Beneath the stylish exterior is a capable and moving meditation on how lonely it can really be at the top. Ewan McGregor is on a whole other level, delivering a performance strong enough to demolish any shortcomings the series may have.