‘The First Monday in May’ Confirms That Life is Beautiful

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CHICAGO – The moral of the story of “The First Monday in May” definitely is “there is heaven on earth if the right angels come together.” The film is stunningly beautiful, as it chronicles the development of the annual costume exhibit and gala at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Yes, I said the costume exhibit, a shorthand for fashion-as-art, which has become one of the most popular exhibits every year, and closes the Museum down on the “first Monday in May” for the associative gala fundraiser that Vogue editor Anna Wintour – the real life inspiration for Miranda Priestly in “The Devil Wears Prada” – puts together. It is one of THE parties of the year in New York City, and its breadth and scope are well developed in the film, as it focuses on Andrew Bolton, the curator of the show, and Anna W. herself in the planning stages. The results of these highly creative people working together conjures miracles, and director Rossi manages to capture all of the life-is-beautiful result.

Andrew Bolton – a modest and humble fashion guru from Britain – is in charge of the annual costume design exhibit for the Metropolitan Art Museum, which has become one of New York City’s most happening must-see. There are three days the whole museum is closed – Thanksgiving, Christmas and the first Monday in May – when the show opens with Anna Wintour’s gala fundraiser.

Andrew Bolton
Attending Every Detail: Andrew Bolton in ‘The First Monday in May’
Photo credit: Magnolia Pictures

The theme for the 2015 exhibition is “China Through the Looking Glass,” which creates displays of Chinese influences on the West, and the West’s perception of those influences. From initial ideas to Day One of the exhibit, it is Andrew Bolton who must make the decisions and execute the eye candy with an army of fellow creators, and it is Anna Wintour that must, in tandem, create the biggest fundraising event of the year for the museum.

Rossi does a sensational job of balancing both stories, as their paths inevitably collide. If you are a fan of creativity and sheer determination to manifest creativity, then this film does it all for you. The fashion and design shown in the film is like high opera, so luxurious in form and function that it can generate tears with its gasp-out-loud splendor. The first thought I had after seeing the film was, “our purpose in being here is to generate heaven on earth for others.’

This heavenliness is counter balanced with the pure absurdity when in close range of the planning stages. The film, for example, wisely shows an interview with Anna Wintour, when she is asked about her status as the real-life inspiration for “The Devil Wears Prada.” Her answer is letter perfect, either derived by 500 PR gurus in a room or by Anna herself, it could be either way. It is a highlight in a film which is all highlights.

The culmination of the gala night is also blessedly funny, while at the same time awash in unfathomable fashion. We are treated to Justin Bieber and his entourage boy trying to be cool amongst the fashionistas. There is George Clooney and his recent bride blowing off the red carpet host, a kimono-wearing African American icon named André Leon Talley. There are a boatload of these moments of truth in the film, which makes it that much more enjoyable.

Singer Rihanna on the Gala Red Carpet in ‘The First Monday in May’
Photo credit: Magnolia Pictures

Andrew Bolton, who has since been named overall curator of the fashion-as-art element of museum, is the star of the show, as he frets on both large and small details. He is haunted by a former show, one of the most popular in the Metropolitan Museum history, that of the late, outrageous designer Alexander McQueen. The ghost follows him throughout the building of the China show, even to that first Monday. That poignancy, paired with the audacious and mind-blowing opening, confirms our very humanity.

This is a must-see for fashion fans, design nerds, celebrity hounds, those who dish dirt and finally, the beholders of the stuff of life. There is literally something in this film for everyone, deceptively so, and provides yet another slice of heaven for those of us still stuck on earth.

“The First Monday in May” opened nationwide on April 15th, including Chicago. See local listings for theaters and show times. Featuring Anna Wintour, Andrew Bolton, Karl Lagerfeld, Baz Luhrmann, George Clooney, Rihanna, Michael Kors and André Leon Talley. Directed by Andrew Rossi. Rated “PG-13”

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Writer, Editorial Coordinator

© 2016 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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