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February 25, 2009 |

By Dustin Rowles | Film | February 25, 2009 |

I have no idea why I’m reviewing this. I may be half gay on my father’s side, but I did not apparently inherit the gene responsible for an interest in fashion. Winter = Hoodie and Jeans; Summer = T-Shirt and Jeans. Nice Restaurant = I’ll Take off My Ball Cap. It’s a simple formula that’s gotten me through a lot of years. A keen fashion sense not only complicates one’s life, it adds unnecessary strain on the budget. Indeed, the appeal of fashion shows is completely lost on me; I don’t get it. Why are people interested in watching men and women who don’t look like anyone else in the world wear uncomfortable clothes that no one would ever wear unless they were strutting down a runway?

Eleven Minutes is a documentary about Jay McCarroll, the season one winner of “Project Runway.” There’s a fairly fascinating back-story on McCarroll. After he won “Project Runway,” he opted not to accept the $100,000 prize and the fashion contract because, at the time, the “Project Runway” contract stipulated that he had to give up 10 percent of all his future earnings to the show. McCarroll wasn’t down with that (the stipulation has since been removed), so he opted to go it alone. Unfortunately, none of that backstory is in Eleven Minutes, so for anyone unfamiliar with McCarroll or “Project Runway,” you may be hard-pressed to figure out what’s going on when the documentary plops you immediately into McCarroll’s preparations for the New York fashion show. You may wonder why the “Project Runway” handlers aren’t involved, or why he’s not got the full financial backing of the show. Indeed, he has no money; everyone that’s working for him (including his public relations team) is doing so for free, and the only sponsorship he has is from the Humane Society, which is providing him minimal funding.

McCarroll himself is a weird dude, and apparently, it was as much his personality as his design skills that allowed him to become the winner of “Project Runway.” It’s that reputation, as a guy known for his quirky personality, that McCarroll has to fight against as he’s putting together his show. It actually is fairly amazing how much time, effort, and money goes into an 11 minute fashion show. Eleven Minutes take the viewer through it all in excruciating detail, or at least excruciating for those of us who have no interest in fashion. The documentary guides you through the ordeal, from the moment that McCarroll starts sketching his designs (it’s a hot air balloon theme) up until the weeks after the fashion show, when he’s attempting to sell his clothes, in this case to Urban Outfitters. There’s a lot of sewing, a lot of clothes production in both New York City and China, there’s dealing with models, fitting the clothes, making and finding the right accessories, dealing with the personalities, and there’s a lot of PR involved, from using the right fonts to getting JC Chasez to McCarroll’s fashion show. His PR person is also apparently someone of note — Kelly Cutrone from “The Hills,” although I have no clue who she is. It’s fairly mundane, although McCarroll’s personality makes most of the documentary watchable, even if you don’t quite understand what’s going on.

Indeed, Eleven Minutes seems tailor made for fans of “Project Runway,” a show I’ve never seen. But Mrs. Pajiba-hyphenate loves it, and liked this documentary, for whatever that’s worth. I’ll admit that the mechanics of putting a fashion show together — especially for one important enough to belong on New York’s fashion week — are somewhat compelling, in the way that project coordinating is compelling in a particularly good episode of, say, “The Apprentice.” There’s an inordinate amount of ego involved, and McCarroll’s inability to take the entire thing completely seriously is part of his undoing. He seems to be aware of how a fashion show stacks up against the grand scheme of things, and his failure to take a more myopic approach to fashion makes him unique in that world, but it also undermines his efforts. For fans of McCarroll (and of “Project Runway”) who probably already know where he ultimately ends up (a van down by the river), I don’t think it’s spoilery to say that things don’t exactly work out the way he’d wanted. I suppose that’s what you get when your fashion theme is inspired by diarrhea and vaginal discharge, as is McCarroll’s.

Eleven Minutes/ Dustin Rowles

Film | February 25, 2009 |

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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