Updated: Jun 20
Available for streaming within a few days of each other, the twin births of the latest “Netflix” babies “The Woman in the Window” (movie, also released in selected theaters) and the first episode of "Halston" (miniseries staring Ewan McGregor courtesy of Ryan Murphy Productions) complement each other in that they are both unapologetically bad but in different ways. While "Woman" is the perfect example of a guilty pleasure that you enjoy all the way through, getting high on its unintended campiness, "Halston", is a complete dud with a shocking lack of, well, style (and camp!). It is lackluster and lazy with a script that coasts on cliches and platitudes. A major problem for the production is that Mr. H. like his French contemporary Yves Saint Laurent, was an enigma and, like the two competing French biopics of Laurent, released in France in 2015, "Halson" has no soul, no center. You almost pity McGregor who, at least in this episode, is forced to either 1) throw a temper tantrum 2) proclaim to the world that he is H-A-L-S-T-O-N or 3) meet with his current lover so he (that is we) can be updated of what is happening in American fashion as we are catapulted from the late fifties to the early seventies. There is the occasional moment that makes you sit up and take interest: Halston started out as a milliner, first in Chicago and then in New York. In a flashback we see him as a lonely child (he actually had a lot a siblings) making hats for his unhappy mama. His first big break came when he designed Jackie Kennedy’s famous pillbox to go with Oleg Cassini's outfits. Then there is that otherworldly voice which McGregor actually comes close to catching. And in the largely lackluster supporting cast there are two small exceptions; Krysta Rodriguez who plays Halson's muse Liza Minnelli does a nice job performing “Say Liza (Liza with Z)” and Rory Culkin does something, although I am not quite sure what exactly, with one of Halston's first major collaborators, Joel Schumacher - yes, the soon to be director Joel ("Saint Elmo's Fire") Schumacher. There are still four episodes to go and the series, which is directed by Daniel Minahan ("Deadwood", "Six Feet Under"), may well improve. However, I did sneak peek the first few minutes of episode two. It seems we are all off to Versailles for the fashion show battle of the century and no, it does not get better. It gets worse!
"The Woman in the Window" gives Amy Adams another opportunity after "Nocturnal Animals" and "Hillbilly Elegy" to act up a storm in a project that is not worthy of her prodigious talents. The final film to be released under the banner Fox 2000 Pictures (so sad!), its troubled production has become the stuff of Hollywood legend. Based on the 2018 novel of the same name by A.J. Finn (a pseudonym) and the "Hollywood debut" of British director Joe Wright of "Atonement" and "Pride and Prejudice" fame, the film was originally due for release in 2019 but suffered from multiple delays brought about by the twin plagues of Hollywood Acquisition (Fox by Disney) and COVID. Eventually, it was acquired by Netflix. Then there is the screenplay which, although credited to actor/playwright Tracy Letts (who also acts in the movie), was worked on by many, and it shows. Adams plays a woman with severe agoraphobia who cannot leave her spacious home in Manhattan and her only (beware of possible spoilers!) communication with the outside world is by phone with her husband, from whom she is separated, and young daughter. We learn that there is some traumatic incident in her past and that she used to work as a child psychologist. Then one night, guess what? Out of sheer boredom, she begins to spy on her new neighbors (Gary Oldman, Fred Hechinger, and Julianne Moore) and then, wouldn’t you know it, thinks she witnesses a stabbing in their apartment. Sounds familiar? Of course! The movie is rip-off of Hitchcock's masterpiece "Rear Window", which is referenced in the film along with the Bogart/Bacall movie "Dark Passage". There are variations in the plot, though. The best is a visit by Moore to Adam's home. Adams, having finally found the courage to open her front door and chase away some nasty trick-or-treaters on Halloween night (why?), faints dead away from the strain and the effort and is rescued by Moore. We do not know that it’s Moore until we see her from Adams’s point of view after she wakes up. And what a welcome wake-up it is! This is Moore’s only scene but she is on top form and she also brings out the best in Adams. Seeing these two great actresses bob and weave with one another, as they wrestle with what they can and cannot say, is a delight. The scene puts the rest of the movie to shame, yet it also makes it worth watching. Then there is Adams' very spacious loft. If Wright achieves anything in this film it is giving this space a feel, a personality. Dimly lit by cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel, it looks like Harrison Ford's apartment in Blade Runner and, with Adams, it becomes the film's other major character. Of course, the joke is that this place must be worth at least $15 million in today's market. All this on a psychologist's salary? And she has a guy (a creepy guy played by Wyatt Russell) renting out the basement! Does this make any sense? Not really, and, gradually, neither does the movie. The special details that make a great or even good movie are missing here. If a movie has no respect for its audience, how can the audience respect it back?
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