Even if you’re a devoted fan of “Project Runway” — or, maybe especially if you are one — you’ll find “Eleven Minutes,” the documentary about first-season winner Jay McCarroll seriously lacking.
Sure, the behind-the-scenes details are intriguing as we watch what it takes for the reality TV star to put together his debut show during New York Fashion Week. As a designer, McCarroll has a definite vision, a ’60s look inspired by hot air balloons and zeppelins, and the cameras follow him around for a year as he struggles to make his 11-minute show a reality. That means everything from shaping off-kilter wigs and casting models to sewing his own clothes by hand and stressing out when the shoes he ordered haven’t arrived an hour before showtime.
But co-directors Michael Selditch and Rob Tate have too much reverence for McCarroll as an artist and as a larger-than-life persona. He made his mark on television with his brash flamboyance and biting wit, which carries him through the many challenges he faces on the way to presenting his designs to a critical crowd. He can be profane and rude and self-involved — “I can’t see because the (expletive) camera guy is in the way,” he complains at one point — but he’s always brutally honest, which is played for laughs.
And you’ve gotta love his twisted take on an industry in which gauging what’s going to be hot is all that matters: “I would love to show (my designs) on albinos,” he says, “but I have to get my foot in the door a little bit more, you know what I mean?”
Considering that McCarroll is in pretty much every frame of the movie, though, we never really get to know what moves and drives him as a person. We see the ugly parts of his personality but they never make him human; they feel more like quirks. He’s surrounded by a publicist, assistants and a product designer, but they don’t flesh him out either. They’re just cogs in his high-energy machine.
In the very beginning, he laments feeling lonely when he sees other people in love, and he wonders whether he’ll ever be deserving of such love himself — but Selditch and Tate never come back to that. At one point McCarroll describes himself as “the poster boy for angry insecurity,” something else they should have explored.
Instead, they needlessly pad their movie with sped-up sequences of the tents being erected in Manhattan’s Bryant Park, with overhead shots of McCarroll furiously sketching away. He reads e-mails from adoring fans worldwide, and even those few that are critical — like one from a person who hopes he dies of a heart attack — seem too ridiculous to take seriously.
Ultimately, on the big day, when reporters are asking him the same questions over and over and he keeps dropping F-bombs into his answers, McCarroll whines, “I don’t want to talk about ‘Project Runway’ anymore!” But what he represents, as yet another reality TV star trying to make it big on his own once the cameras have been turned off, is a larger and more complex story than you can tell in “Eleven Minutes.”