The first episode of Netflix’s Halston provides enough glitz and glamour to be a good, if not easy, time, with Ewan McGregor steering the ship and Krysta Rodriguez bringing much-needed pizzazz as Liza Minnelli.
This recap of Netflix limited series Halston episode 1, “Becoming Halston”, contains spoilers.
Netflix’s Halston, the latest by Ryan Murphy in an executive role, stars Ewan McGregor as the eponymous Roy Halston Frowick, the fashion designer originally known for designing Jackie Kennedy’s pillbox hats. Directed by Daniel Minahan and penned by Sharr White, the miniseries explores Halston’s rise and fall over the course of multiple decades.
Glitzy and over-the-top, the series opener, “Becoming Halston,” excels when it isn’t over-thinking its premise or its star. It shouldn’t be, and often it’s not, a character study like The Assassination of Gianni Versace. It’s much closer to Glee. Opening with Kennedy giving Halston major publicity, a flash-forward several years into the future, and the designer’s sudden lack of cash flow, the series begins with Halston out of ideas. It’s an unsurprising and unexciting starting point, but one that allows the series to go in a multitude of directions, given Murphy’s license to over-dramatize real-world events.
By 1968, Halston’s hats have become an afterthought, as the designer walks down a Manhattan street looking at the fashion of the ladies of his time. He’s gained recognition but not fame, slight success without riches. He meets and picks up a man named Ed at the bar, giving him a sense of reassurance, something that he desperately and consistently needs. The designer exists sans confidence. He puts on a show with a small collection, ending in disaster as no one buys his designs.
Unfazed, Halston meets up with illustrator Joe Eula (David Pittu) in episode 1, convincing him to join his team, as Eula introduces Halston to Liza Minnelli, played by the overwhelming Krysta Rodriguez, bringing charm and wit to an initial performance of “Liza with a Z.” She becomes Halston’s first muse, the person that brings his simple, elegant designs to a wider audience, shaping into a friend and collaborator.
After securing initial funding of $100,000, Halston sets up shop with a small crew, including model Elsa Peretti (Rebecca Dayan) and young filmmaker Joel Schumacher (Rory Culkin). He’s fascinated with suede, though unable to find the perfect use for the material, instead taking Schumacher’s idea of a flowy, patterned, dyed dress and running with it. Though the show doesn’t lead to any direct sales, it garners the interest of Babe Paley, a socialite who was once named to the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame.
Halston starts dressing in all black. He starts wearing sunglasses all the time, regardless of the time of day or the amount of sunshine seeping into his eyes. And he takes on the serious persona of someone known as Halston, somewhat of a diversion from his current personality. During the meeting with Paley, he shows her Ultrasuede synthetic trench coats, “everyday” attire as he calls it. She’s smitten. She buys one in every color. And so, Halston levels up, growing from a one-hit-wonder with Jackie Kennedy to someone that New York socialites wear on a daily basis.
Up next, the Battle of Versailles. The Fashion Show that is.