‘Diane von Fürstenberg: Woman in Charge’ Review: Believe It or Not, She Really Did All of This

Diane von Fürstenberg may not be a household name anymore, but this new Hulu documentary from Trish Dalton (“Student Athlete”) and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy (“Ms. Marvel”) aims to fix that. Whether you know von Fürstenberg from her game-changing fashion line and her many appearances in the gossip columns, or you’ve never heard her name before in your life, “Diane von Fürstenberg: Woman in Charge” will probably blow your mind a little.

This woman lived such a remarkably full life that if it weren’t a documentary, her story would be pretty hard to believe. Von Fürstenberg is the daughter of an Auschwitz survivor who married a queer German prince from an antisemitic family and invented one of the most popular dresses in modern history.

That’s when she wasn’t rejecting offers of three-way sex with Mick Jagger and David Bowie or having sexcapades with Richard Gere, who she dismisses as merely “cute.” She also divorced herself out of that royal family because a magazine article made her feel a little “meh” about it. And we’re just scratching the danged surface.

To hear powerful women like Oprah Winfrey and Hilary Clinton tell it, von Fürstenberg shattered the glass ceiling with a nuclear missile. Good. She also reinvented herself in so many careers and countries that I wouldn’t be surprised to find out she came up with the idea for “The Muppet Show” and told Jim Henson he could have it, she totally didn’t mind. I would simply assume they had to cut the anecdote for time.

All of this is to say that “Diane von Fürstenberg: Woman in Charge” is an interesting documentary and an overwhelming motion picture. It doesn’t take long for her fortunes and misfortunes to wear you down a bit. It’s Diane von Fürstenberg’s life and I’m not even sure the rest of us get to live in it. We’re just allowed to peek through the window and be dazzled.

It’s important to note that “Woman in Charge” is not a grand celebration of money, fame and excess, nor does it paint the inventor of the wrap dress as a woman whose wealth gave her advantages nobody else could ever hope for. That’s not her. Her family barely survived a genocide. She grew up middle-class.

She married into royalty when she got pregnant — again, she tried not to. She divorced the prince on her own terms. She came up with a great idea for affordable high fashion and did the leg work herself until it became a hit on its own merits. Her family suffered tragic deaths and mental health challenges. She’s put in the damn effort and by any reasonable measure she deserves all this enormous success.

Even so, the film seems a little self-conscious at the end about how to frame her story. “Diane von Fürstenberg: Woman in Charge” concludes with a presentation about how nobody cares about success, and that vulnerability is what inspires people. But this movie cares an awful lot about her success, and her infrequent expressions of genuine vulnerability aren’t nearly as prominent as those shows of strength.

Maybe that’s just who she is, and it sure is wild to watch her live her life and revisit her escapades — but it makes the film’s attempts to play down those incredible feats a little futile. She really has had one of the most epic runs you could possibly imagine. We’re definitely looking up at von Fürstenberg from our position way down at the foot of her pedestal.

Diane von Fürstenberg is, by the most neutral definition of the word, a great person. Her accomplishments ring out, her inspiration is palpable, her exploits are legend. “Diane von Fürstenberg: Woman in Charge” is a striking documentary. It tells her inspiring story, it stuns us with her exploits.

We don’t really get to know what it’s like to be von Fürstenberg — most of us are too normal to even imagine — and that’s a shame. But we get to know she exists and that she is amazing, and there’s some comfort in the knowledge that in what was allegedly a man’s world, this woman rules.

Watch the trailer for the film here:

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