"Eleven Minutes" Review
In short, we loved it.
Now, the longer version. It’s a little difficult to look at a documentary with anything approaching objectivity when you both know, and are fans of, the subject. If you’re a fan of Jay McCarroll, you’ll love this movie and if you’re someone who can’t stand him, you’ll probably love this movie too. This is pure Jay, laid out with no filters, and the result is a fairly gripping film.
If you’re a fan of Project Runway and have little real knowledge of or exposure to the inner workings of the fashion industry – especially the lower rungs of it – this film is going to come as something of a shock to you. Project Runway is a fantasy that calls itself reality; Eleven Minutes is the reality of working in a fantasy world. It’s dirty, it’s crazy, it’s filled with characters, some who are colorful, some who are creative, and some who are just plain assholes. And in the middle of this maelstrom is Jay, trying to figure out who he is as a designer, as a media figure, as a commodity, and even as a person. You could say that this film is about the fashion industry and that’s true, but the larger truth is that this is a film about that universal theme of struggling to succeed in a playing field seemingly designed to do everything it can to prevent success. The little fashion engine that could.
Because of that, you couldn’t have as the main subject a better figure than Jay himself. Insanely witty and funny (and the film is loaded with genuine laugh-out-loud moments), he’s also capable of that one thing that all good documentaries need at their center: putting himself out there, warts and all. You’ll laugh with him and you’ll root for him and you’ll feel for him when the chips are down, but you’ll also shake your head in exasperation when he makes mistakes or makes life difficult for the people around him.
The film is beautifully shot and edited. There are rapid fire conversational scenes where the filmmakers basically took out any pauses between speakers and the result is a frenetic, dizzying scene that fairly forces you to lean forward in your seat to keep up with it and raises the tension levels. The runway show at the end is so beautifully shot and edited that we weep at how poorly Project Runway does the same thing. The one thing we had a problem with was how the filmmakers chose to end the film. Without giving anything away, it lacked the emotional punch that such a buildup required.
As we said, even if you’re not a fan of Jay McCarroll or not a fan of fashion in general, you’ll still enjoy this film. Because it’s not about Jay or fashion; it’s about the struggle to create and the struggle to survive and it succeeds beautifully in depicting these things.
And on that note, if you ARE a fan of Jay and WANT him to survive, check out his new site with fabulous product here.
[Photo: Courtesy of jaymccarrolldocumentary.com]