Amusing and goofy, though surprisingly lacking anything that remotely approaches insight, "Unzipped" takes us through the whirlwind world of upscale fashion by following top designer Isaac Mizrahi as he prepares his 1994 fall show. And Mizrahi makes it a wonderfully whimsical ride.
Loaded with angst and self-doubt but armed with an offbeat sense of humor, Mizrahi is like an even more energetic Richard Simmons, if that's possible. He's all over the place brutally imitating Eartha Kitt after visiting with her (his imitation is hilariously intercut with Kitt talking to him), pointing to Mary Tyler Moore, "Nanook of the North" and the old Clark Gable-Loretta Young version of "Call of the Wild" as major inspirations in his work and desperately agonizing over what the New York fashion critics might say about his show.
And we thought Woody Allen was neurotic!
Oddly, filmmaker Dennis Keeve (a fashion photographer) doesn't really explore Mizrahi but instead seems content to simply follow him around, letting the designer put on a show for the camera. Yet, thanks to a grand finale the film builds toward, the fact that Mizrahi is such an engaging fellow and because the movie is so short (76 minutes), that seems to be enough.
The film's style, however, is sometimes seriously irritating. In an effort to create an "experimental look," Keeve employs hand-held techniques and various types of film stock to get an occasional blurry or grainy effect. And though most of the movie is in black and white, there are color sequences that show up for no apparent purpose except in the final reel, when we see glorious bursts of color during the fashion show, as supermodels Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista and Kate Moss storm the runway. (Evangelista, by the way, is the only person here who comes off in a genuinely negative light, as she has petulant tantrums backstage.)
There's a lot of "celebrity-dropping" here, especially during the show, as the camera singles out Richard Gere (married to Craw-ford at the time), Roseanne, Kyle MacLachlan, Sandra Bernhard and others. And Keeve is quite imaginative in his use of film clips, all of which have a dramatic point driven home by his subject.
In many ways this is the movie Robert Altmen was striving for with "Ready to Wear (Pret-A-Porter)."
Mostly, though, it's just a witty Isaac Mizrahi comedy.
"Unzipped" is rated R for profanity and some brief, partial nudity in the dressing room.