Film Review: Eleven Minutes

This delirious, delicious, deconstructing look at the recent real-world entry into fashion of reality-TV’s first “Project Runway” winner Jay McCarroll should round up the usual suspects of gay, style-conscious viewers and many others eag

Debuting day-and-date in theatres and via video-on-demand on HERE! Networks, Michael Selditch and Rob Tate’s Eleven Minutes delivers an up-close, personal and flashy look at brutally blunt and spontaneous “Project Runway” darling Jay McCarroll, after he has emerged from reality-show coo-coo land and prepares to show his first line of clothing commercially.

The documentary, fired by teddy-bear McCarroll’s low-rent wit, candor and gift for showmanship, and the loyal crew who surround him, follows Gaysville’s answer to Gabby Hayes as he prepares his first independent show for New York’s Fashion Week at Bryant Park. The film’s final chapter is no less intense, as McCarroll must sell his wares to buyers and stores.

Feisty, frank and above all a furry creative animal, the motor-mouthed designer serves as a great guide through both the thorny tangles of the fashion biz and the mystery of creativity. Because he’s anti-fur for clothes, the Humane Society sponsors him and many viewers will love him just for that.

Documentaries are both subject-dependent and, except in a rare case like Maximillian Schell’s Marlene Dietrich doc, access-dependent. On both counts, Selditch and Tate have nailed it.

From reality TV to the more brutal reality of, well, reality, Eleven Minutes—like many a good fiction and nonfiction film—follows McCarroll on an intriguing journey through lower Manhattan and beyond as he struggles to mount a fashion show with bells and whistles beyond the clothes and with little money and business sense. His design influences—also front and center—are a wacky mix, including an obscure London architectural movement of the 1960s and his fixation on hot-air balloons. It helps that his considerable eccentricities are magically accessible.

McCarroll’s supporting, if not always supportive, cast includes a slew of flunkies, a determined project director, peripheral colleagues who contribute artistically beyond the actual clothes, tough and scary publicists, intriguing models, and a laid-back collaborator who endangers the all-important Bryant Park deadline by outsourcing work to China.

The grand irony on display and the source of suspense in Eleven Minutes is that so fired-up a designer—triumphant on reality TV and privileged to be allowed to play in Bryant Park—might actually crash and burn when post-fashion show reality sets in and push comes to sell or die. It’s no secret that buyers typically don’t purchase a first collection.

With more metaphorical loose threads and falling hems than the more stitched-up Isaac Mizrahi doc Unzipped of a few years ago and the more recent Karl Lagerfeld doc, this less zipped-up cinematic fashion exposé is every bit as entertaining. As with the other designers, McCarroll is immensely telegenic and seems to be as juiced by his artistic gifts as he is by force of personality and endearing eccentricities. In all three films, the appeal is the natural charisma and creative drive of the designer subjects and the impression that their portrayals are as honest as crafty editing and their egos will allow.

McCarroll may be the most original, a maverick driven by creativity and impulse rather than more pragmatic considerations like selling the stuff. Will his naiveté and rebellion prove fatal, even in a business as non-conformist and unpredictable as fashion?

The bottom line is that McCarroll is seriously amusing and the doc is fun. Attention Kmart shoppers: Eleven Minutes is for you too!