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THE POP FIX CRITIC: Eleven Minutes (at the Newport Beach Film Festival)

by Chau Tu 1 May 2009 190 views No Comment E-mail Chau Tu

Image via IMDB.com

Image via IMDB.com

“I don’t even know what the fuck that is.”

Jay McCarroll points to the drawing on the wall and laughs, continuing in his whiny, without-a-care voice, “Is that a leaf? Oh my God.”

The problem with this scene? McCarroll drew that drawing himself. And it was a mock-up drawing of a clothing piece that he had hoped (at least at one point in time) to physically create for his fashion collection.

But this laissez-faire attitude of McCarroll’s isn’t surprising. It was, after all, this brash personality that got him noticed on the first season of Bravo’s “Project Runway,” maybe enough so that it helped him to get the win. And it is probably the best reason for this documentary about him, directed by Michael Selditch and Robert Tate, and currently making the rounds of film festivals around the country, including this week’s Newport Beach Film Festival.

The title of the documentary is “Eleven Minutes,” which most obviously refers to the length of McCarroll’s debut runway show at Bryant Park in New York for Fashion Week. As his first, and at this point, only chance to show off his work to entice buyers and consumers, these eleven minutes are crucial.

Of course, the title might also be a play on Andy Warhol’s famous saying about everyone’s chance at fifteen minutes of fame. McCarroll may have been the very first winner of highly-popular reality series, “Project Runway,” but he didn’t necessarily sow the seeds of victory. The “Project Runway” win offered him $100,000 and a mentorship with Banana Republic, but he declined both prizes, citing that a clause in the contract would give “Project Runway”’s production company a 10% stake in his professional ventures and that the mentorship wouldn’t help him as an already experienced designer.

Image via IMDB.com

Image via IMDB.com

This fact wasn’t stated anywhere in “Eleven Minutes,” but it is exactly what has brought McCarroll to this point in his career when the documentary begins– sponsor-less and money-less for the debut collection he hopes to present for Fashion Week.

The film follows McCarroll’s obstacles and funny moments as he stumbles through the making of the show.  Like other fashion show documentaries — notably, Loic Prigent’s fabulous “Marc Jacobs + Louis Vuitton” and Rodolphe Marconi’s amusing “Lagerfeld Confidential” — it shows the intimate and stressful innerworkings of doing a fashion line, and of course, the drama.  Oh the drama.  Expect scene-stealing lines from “The Hills” regular Kelly Cutrone and her sad minions, who try to ‘help’ McCarroll with his show, and a lot of pouting on either side.

What sets this documentary apart from the other fashion films is most obviously, and also most unfortunately, McCarroll.  With snobby one-liners, the natural ability to talk about absolutely anything and a flair perfect only for being in front of a camera, McCarroll seems like the perfect documentary subject.  But there isn’t much in “Eleven Minutes” that goes in-depth past the on-screen persona.  Sure, McCarroll faces obstacles and there are moments of disppointment contrasted with those of pure glee, but what we also see is stubbornness and kind of just mainstream designer life — something the modern audience is more than familiar with, thanks to the onslaught of reality TV.  In the big picture of it all, McCarroll isn’t that entertaining, and nor is he that likeable.

But is that surprising?  Those who watched “Project Runway” know it, and those people are main audience for this film.  If you’re a fan, you’ll get it, and it will at least tide you over until “Project Runway” starts again (soon!).

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