Two years after winning the first season of Project Runway, flamboyantly charismatic fashion designer Jay McCarroll still hadn’t launched his first clothing line, the pressure of being internationally famous for being famous playing hell on his nerves and insecurities. Beginning production then, doc filmmakers Michael Selditch and Rob Tate’s charming and unexpectedly perceptive portrait-cum-procedural proves the DIY-authentic corrective to Unzipped, a warts-and-all chronicle of McCarroll’s year-long preparation for his inaugural show at New York Fashion Week. Hardly a glamorous daily existence, McCarroll—a stressed-out but good-humored teddy bear whose naked sensitivities balance his ego—scours Chinatown for cheap material, milks as much as he can out of hemorrhaging budgets and unpaid employees, attempts to micro-manage when outsourced work gets botched, and squabbles with his publicist over creative compromises. What truly elevates it all is how the directors (deliberately appearing on-screen at times) subtly address our perceptions of filmed “reality,” from their even-handed vérité here to the more grossly manufactured confines of reality TV, a medium McCarroll is quick to call “vulgar.” Like Soderbergh’s two-part Che—yes, I’m making this comparison—Eleven Minutes is less about its subject and more about formalist processes (both McCarroll and the filmmakers’), and shouldn’t exist as a stand-alone without viewers having experienced its other half, Project Runway.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 18, 2009