halston ewan mcgregor

Netflix’s Halston Is Too Simple a Look at a Complicated Man

2/5 shiny fabrics.

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I wanted very much to like Netflix’s Halston, and while I didn’t come away with a bad taste in my mouth, I was rather bored throughout all five episodes. A Ryan Murphy production is always rife with opportunities for criticism. Whether it be for the accuracy of the story being told or how things are portrayed through his very specific “genre” of storytelling, it is often a hit-or-miss occasion when his name appears, and Halston is no different.

For a show set during an tumultuous time in our American history (ranging from the ’70s up to Halston’s death in 1990), it just felt stale. While Halston was known for his simplistic designs that changed the fashion landscape (after growing to fame with his pillbox hat that Jackie Kennedy wore), the show did not have to be a simple depiction of the complicated figure’s life. Halston was a movement during his reign in the fashion industry, and the show just feels like a brief interlude in some bigger story that doesn’t exist.

Halston’s family has called the show “inaccurate.” His niece, Lesley Frowick, spoke with WWD about the Netflix show about how they did not talk to the family but “approached some people from the quote-unquote inner circle, but I don’t know who they are.” Frowick went on to say, “They did not approach us at all so this is in fact an unauthorized series about my uncle’s life and touching on fiction, I guess. Salacious things sell.”

While there wasn’t anything that particularly stood out about the show, I did love the looks it presented. I’ll think about Ewan McGregor as Halston in a red suit with a black turtleneck standing in an all-red bathroom for the rest of my life. But a show that features Krysta Rodriguez as Liza Minnelli and is still somehow just “okay” is … upsetting.

There was a lot of telling and not showing with this production, like Liza just explaining that Halston did the costumes for her as Sally Bowles in Cabaret instead of … I don’t know, SHOWING ME CABARET.

But I did like learning a bit more about Halston, however the show chose to present the information. I’m someone who will do my own research and look into aspects of the story that don’t feel accurate to me because I want to learn more about these figures, but the fact that Halston’s family isn’t on board is a bit telling, and I think that the show could have benefitted from their involvement as well as not rushing his entire rise and fall in fashion in 5 less-than-60-minute episodes.

I wanted to be thrown into the world of the ’70s and ’80s fashion, but even what I liked about the show was marred with an air of seeming like no one really cared. I think Ewan McGregor did a good job playing the designer, but I could feel moments of this show when he was just grabbing fabric because that’s what it said to do and not because he, as a designer, knew what he was doing. And maybe that’s because I’ve worked in fashion and I know how designers function, but it also just … felt disingenuous at times.

The most exciting part of the show came from the moments when they stopped just telling me things and showed aspects of Halston’s life where he was at a fashion show in Paris or working to create his signature scent (which reminded me of all the Tom Ford perfumes I’m obsessed with, even if I can’t afford them). Those moments, while there at least once in every episode, felt like the show I wanted, and the softer moments were just … sort of boring.

All this to say that I didn’t hate Halston. It’s not a Murphy production that I’ll yell about for years to come. It was just fine. It was a look at a designer that many people have probably forgotten throughout the years (which is sad in its own right), and so I hope people go to do their own research about him. I just wish this show had a bit more to it. Also, I do understand now why Tom Ford loves Halston. That seems about right.

(image: ATSUSHI NISHIJIMA/NETFLIX)

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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.