The Halston crew takes Versailles, and not-enough-chaos ensues.
This recap of Netflix limited series Halston episode 2, “Versailles”, contains spoilers.
Eleanor Lambert (Kelly Bishop) opens up episode 2, “Versailles,” of Netflix’s Halston. A known fashion publicist, Lambert wants Halston to participate in the Battle of Versailles, a fashion competition pitting American and French designers against one another. Lambert exists as just one of many names that are synonymous with New York City fashion. She created New York Fashion Week and the Met Gala. She made fashion more public than ever before to general American audiences.
It’s 1973, and Halston is meeting with David Mahoney (Bill Pullman), a businessman hoping to buy the licensing of the Halston name. He proposes mass production, getting Halston dresses in every department store in every major city in the country, to which the designer refuses. Despite some success, Halston and his project remain broke, as he spends his nights with different escorts around the city. Mahoney tells him, “You’re really good at not looking worried,” and the Norton Simon businessman is right. Halston unravels at the slightest bit of trouble. As a designer, he might have been a genius. As a character, he often falls flat.
Norton Simon pays for Halston and his team to be in the Battle of Versailles Fashion Show, and after convincing Minnelli to tag along and perform for him, they travel to France with 24 designs and an opportunity to show their worth. Before he leaves, Halston meets with Victor Hugo, starting a relationship with both the Venezuelan artist and cocaine.
McGregor remains a central, solid presence as Halston, despite his exaggerated nature. In fact, it often seems like the actor could go even further, becoming muted in times of distress, as the writers and director reach back for a flashback that’s ill-fitting and momentum-stopping. Seeing Halston as a boy does little to further the entertainment the series attempts to provide, slowing the propulsion of McGregor’s performance and his interactions with other famous people, the lightness that keeps each episode afloat.
Halston’s entrance into France, alongside Minnelli, Eula, and Peretti, coincides with an entrance by Anne Klein, Bill Blass, Stephen Burrows, and Oscar de la Renta, the biggest names in American design at the time. Halston’s been pushed to the big leagues of fashion, a place he both belongs and swears he doesn’t belong to, as he and Minnelli would say, “like a true artist.”
Still, the designer and his team get through the road bumps of not going last in the show, ceding that to Oscar de la Renta, creating dresses in a tiny studio, and coming up with a new backdrop after designing the first one in feet instead of meters, none of which seem to have the impact that Halston allows them to. The dramatics of the acting and dialogue doesn’t match the plot, an over-dramatization of character without an over-dramatization of narrative. Of course, Halston pulls it off with a bit of magic and a stroke of genius, after signing the licensing and distribution agreement offered by Mahoney. As Eula notes, he sells away his name in order for fame and fortune, not the first person to make this trade.
Halston remains a big success by the end of episode 2, due to the supposed triumph of the show along with some help from the scene- and show-stealing Minnelli. He continues pushing forward, onto the glassy depths of stardom.