Flash forward to 1968, and hats have gone out of style. Halston is thus prodded to segue into women’s dresses, which won’t be the last time he’ll expand his fashion footprint –coaxed by patron David Mahoney (Bill Pullman) of Norton Simon Industries — usually kicking, screaming and cursing every step of the way.
“I’m going to change the face of American fashion,” Halston announces early on, while dismissing negative response to one of his shows by snapping, “I’m brilliant. They’re the dummies.”
Halston himself was a self-made creation, and McGregor effectively inhabits his imperious, sharply enunciated persona. He finds a muse and lifelong pal in Liza Minnelli (Krysta Rodriguez), one of the few friends or associates he hasn’t alienated by the time it’s over.
The ’70s bring extraordinary success and decadence in equal measure, with rampant cocaine use, a new relationship with a fellow named Victor Hugo (Gian Franco Rodriguez) and every other diversion available at Studio 54. That’s followed by the toll AIDS exacted on the gay community in the ’80s, with one striking moment when a member of Halston’s circle is asked to write down his sexual partners and says he’ll need multiple notepads.
“Halston” idles too much during the middle chapters — how many temper tantrums can one man throw? — and overall, the five-part production appears most enamored with its flashy trappings. While the costumes and hairstyling should merit Emmy nominations, the writing makes a far less compelling case.
Still, it’s easy enough to luxuriate in the meticulous way the limited series re-creates this bygone era, as people chain smoke on airplanes and Halston explodes every time someone dares mention rival designers, especially Calvin Klein, whose signature commercials torment him on TV.
“Reviews don’t matter,” Halston says more than once, while quietly living and dying on every word as he insists on having them read to him.
“Halston” doesn’t merit the kind of adulation that its namesake craved, but strictly in terms of garnering attention, combining a marquee star with juicy material is one of those things that never goes out of style.
“Halston” premieres May 14 on Netflix.