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Power Suits

April 17, 1992|BETTY GOODWIN

THE MOVIE: "The Player"

THE SETUP: Ambitious movie studio executive Griffin Mill (Tim Robbins, pictured) inadvertently murders a screenwriter. The incident rumples Mill's suit, but it doesn't hurt his career. He woos the screenwriter's girlfriend, June Gudmundsdottir (Greta Scacchi), rises past his studio nemesis, Larry Levy (Peter Gallagher), and ends up the studio's chief honcho in this wicked dissection of Hollywood ethics.

THE LOOK: Fast-track Hollywood nailed down tight. New York menswear designer Alexander Julian, who says he has dressed the town's biggest players for years, designed the wardrobes for the principal male characters, managing to pinpoint the cool confidence with which guys like Mill put themselves together.

Seen in the peak of summer, Mill makes his moves in resort-colored (soft green and tan), double-breasted custom suits cut from fluid wool crepes. It may be just an illusion, but some of his ties look as if they were printed with images of floating dollar bills. In any case, he oozes self-confidence in his striped shirts under striped braces and the bizarre ties--mostly abstract, free-form prints--that men wear to stand out from the herd.

East Coast outsider Larry Levy is a navy-blue suit man, a real dark horse, who, when given his shot at power, quickly adopts the double-breasted power suit, though he keeps his taste for dark colors.

Elsewhere on the corporate ladder, studio head Joel Levison (Brion James) also favors dark double-breasted suits, always with a slippery shine. Studio security head Walter Stuckel (Fred Ward) wears his one good suit ad infinitum but shows his true colors with bourgeois chambray shirts.

As for June, she's a fascinating enigma, and her strange wardrobe is half the reason. She appears strictly in shapeless white gauze, although you know it doesn't stand for purity. Even the studio support staff, such as Dina Merrill's executive secretary, Celia, are on the mark. She's immaculately tailored in short California-color suits.

Finally, however, it's Mill's sartorial transformation that grabs you by the throat. As his ethical and business quagmire deepens, Mill's tan suits no longer fit. At the end, when he occupies the big studio office, he's in double-breasted gangster pin-stripes, like a "superannuated banker," as Julian puts it.

THE SOURCES: Julian designed all the men's clothes and custom made the principals' suits. Co-producer Scott Bushnell is responsible for other wardrobe, including June's gauzy whites, many by the British design house Ghost, and Celia's suits, by L.A. designer Mark Eisen.

THE PAYOFF: By manipulating details, designer Julian controls and creates clear nuances of character.

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