As a complete outsider to the world of high fashion, it’s difficult to watch Manolo: The Boy Who Made Shoes for Lizards without thinking about Zoolander. The professionals at the center of this strange cultural force are always so odd and colorful that even the objective lens of documentary tends to highlight the comedy. Maybe that’s the issue, fashion itself is an objectification of an entirely subjective matter. But who am I to judge? Like I said, I am a total outsider, a slob even, and these folks are swimming in both money and respect, while exhibiting a level of fabulousness well beyond the simplistic capacities of we normal folk. But something about a large man in a muumuu talking about whether or not clothing looks good is inherently hilarious.
Note: this movie features two different large men in muumuus talking about whether or not clothing looks good.
And when you get down to it, Manolo Blahnik really is pretty creative when it comes to shoes. Thus, our surface-level depiction of this iconic figure, Manolo: The Boy Who Made Shoes for Lizards, has its thesis: Manolo Blahnik makes shoes that people like.
For the sake of my fingers and your eyes, this film is henceforth referred to as Lizard Shoes.
As a boy, Manolo Blahnik would catch lizards and fold foil candy wrappers around their feet, creating shoes. Little did he know that his childhood hobby would soon be what defined him. This notion is how Michael Roberts’ film builds its framework. Unfortunately, the opening moments are the only time that Lizard Shoes seems to adhere to any sort of thematic structure. Not that I needed it to come to a full “You see, I’ve never stopped making shoes for lizards” circle, but it seems weird to have such an unwieldy and attention-grabbing title without having any meaning beyond “Young Manolo Blahnik made shoes for lizards.”
So what we get is a harmless parade of talking heads. Be it a runway model, a designer, or Rihanna, they’re all in agreement: Manolo Blahnik makes great shoes. Blahnik himself gets to chime in here and there as well, usually to say something along the lines of “People like wearing my shoes, and I like making them!” If Lizard Shoes is to be believed, Manolo Blahnik’s life is one of very little drama. This is by his own design. He is a proudly solitary man with the means to do what he loves at all times. In a way it’s nice to see a portrait of a notable figure who has found purity and peace, but at feature length I really wanted to see something more. Of course, the idea that only a tormented soul can create great art is as lame as they come, but without drama can you really ask an audience to spend 90 minutes on such thin material? Blahnik is certainly talented, but he doesn’t make for a compelling movie.
En-shoes-iasts will certainly delight in learning a little about the man whose name is synonymous with fashionable footwear (as well as Sex and the City), but others will likely do what I did: laugh at the silly fashion-people.
Manolo: The Boy Who Made Shoes for Lizards opens today at the Ritz Bourse.
Author: Dan Scully
Dan Scully is a film buff and humorist living in a tiny apartment in Philadelphia. He hosts the podcast I Like to Movie Movie and is the proud father to twin cactuses named Riggs & Murtaugh. Also, he doesn’t really mind when Batman kills people. Follow him on Twitter and Letterboxd.