THIS FILM IS MILDLY RECOMMENDED.
IN BRIEF: The film may be dressed to the nines, but there's not much there.
JIM'S REVIEW: Documentarian Frederic Tcheng's fascination with fashion icons continues in his latest film, Halston, now streaming on CNN and other sites. The subject is worthy viewing, even if the documentary doesn't always inform as well as it should.
We learn about Roy Halston Frowick's mercurial rise and fall via film clips and interviews with friends and models, but the facts are generally glossed over in favor of glitz and glamour. Halston's personal story gets lost in the execution. One knows of his impact on the world of fashion during the 60's and 70's. With clients like Jackie Kennedy, Marisa Berenson, and Liza Minnelli, who wouldn't recognize his fame, talent, and fortune! But the details about this successful country boy turned celebrity are missing. The director seems more interested in gossip and the Studio 54 crowd than the designer.
The film starts with Halston's beginnings as a milliner at Bergdorf Goodman in NYC before branching out on his own. We never learn about his networking, or his inspirations for his design work. We see his extravagance life style with none of the notoriety and only a mere mention of the behind-the-scenes backstabbing. We learn of his business dealings, but avoid most of the evidence of his volatile behavior and temper tantrums. His personal gay life is mainly innuendo and never examined with much detail. His financial decline, the most interesting section of the film, is sidetracked and not given the depth it needs to show Halston's tragic end.
Perhaps the biggest misstep is the introduction of a fictitious narrator, played by Tavi Gevinson, who is presumingly researching this great man, as if he were Charles Foster Kane and the secret word is Rosebud. This film's conceit dooms the film and Mr. Tcheng upstages his subject with this silly plot device.
Still, the interviews are always entertaining and the nostalgia factor with his trendy pop art color statements, dated pillbox hats, and sexy hot pants are a comforting throwback to retro times. It's just that Halston himself deserved a more fitting tribute. This documentary, despite its good intentions, needs some alterations.