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Factory Girl
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by Todd LaPlace

"Who the hell is Edie Sedgwick?"
2 stars

There are good movies and there are bad movies. And then there are completely unnecessary movies. “Factory Girl” is the biopic of Edie Sedgwick, one of Andy Warhol’s first “superstars. Guess which one this is?

Maybe I’m just not in the know and there are actually loads of underground cults that worship her, but here’s the question that kept popping into my head while watching “Factory Girl”: Who the hell is Edie Sedgwick? Technically, she became a cult figure of the 1960s when she hooked up with Andy Warhol and became of his “superstars.” She was a socialite by birth, parlayed it into a modeling career and eventually began starring in many of Warhol’s avant-garde short films. Her eventual addiction to drugs got her ostracized from the fashion community and her whirlwind life at Warhol’s famed Factory eventually ended in a well-publicized split with the artist. She eventually tried to break free of the drugs and regain her life, but a relapse in the early 1970s lead to her inevitable death at age 28.

But still, who the hell is Edie Sedgwick? Or perhaps more importantly, why is she getting her own biopic? These are perhaps the only questions director George Hickenlooper has to answer with “Factory Girl,” but he gets so wrapped up in portraying a series of events that he forgets to really tell her story. At the beginning of the film, Edie (Sienna Miller) bemoans the ubiquitous happy family photos that sit on everyone’s mantles, mostly because they present a false veneer while hiding the seedy reality behind the smiles. It’s clear that Hickenlooper really believes he exposed the truth behind the year-long relationship of Edie and Andy, but he’s just presenting a different kind of facade. Edie constantly tells people about the tragic life of her brother Minty, who was sent away to a psychiatric hospital for supposedly being gay (although many sources site his alcohol abuse starting at age 15 as the true reason) before he committed suicide, and the story is clearly designed to show some sort of ultimate insight into Edie, the rest of the Sedgwick family (Edie was the only one crying at Minty’s funeral) and how the division between the two contributed to her mental and emotional state. It doesn’t, though. It’s just a simple tragedy masquerading as something deeper.

Perhaps that’s the point, though. Warhol’s films, while certainly avant-garde, were little more than amateur productions that try to mine depth from something surface. Films like “Empire” (which was an eight-hour shot of the Empire State Building at night); “Sleep” (five hours of a man sleeping); and “Blow Job” (a single shot of a man’s face as he receives oral sex) are certainly conceptually interesting, but they offer little more than postmodern escape. They’re art because someone decided they were art. Because Hickenlooper is creating a movie, he assumed he had to do little more than point the camera and turn it on. When Andy (Guy Pierce) is sitting in a confessional, we’re supposed to discover depth in statements like, “All I could think was, ‘Will Norman Mailer ever punch me?’,” but the story never digs deeper. All it does is suggest Andy Warhol was borderline insane.

As much as I hate to admit it (especially in the case of B-grade tabloid fodder like Miller), the performances are nearly perfect — with regards to what they’ve been given, at least. Miller captures every ounce of Edie’s unspeakable charm, and it makes total sense why Andy was so captivated with her. The latest in a long line of Warhol portrayers, Pierce plays Andy as a kooky man-child who’s actually nervous meeting Edie for the first time. But her charm was apparently enough to wrangle an invite for her and friend Chuck Wein (a too serious Jimmy Fallon) to the infamous Factory, and it’s that same spirit that captures Andy when she calms the horse for Warhol’s homoerotic “Horse.” From there, Andy and Edie become completely inseparable, as Edie begins to earn fame simply for being fun.

But the consequence-free fun ends when Edie’s parents meet (and disapprove of) Andy, and the bond begins to break. Fueled by the bohemian spirit of the Factory, Edie gets swept into a world of drugs, abuse and eventually, Bob Dylan…oh sorry, Billy Quinn (Hayden Christensen). If the drugs started the rift, Billy was the final break. A famous folk singer by trade, Billy becomes the second celebrity to become captivated by Edie, although he (rightly) questions her relationship with Andy.

Christensen has always been an adequate actor at best, and his showcases his usual level of talent again here. If his robotic tendencies couldn’t even connect with Natalie Portman (twice!), he was never going to be able to pull off Dylan (or a Dylan-like composite of Edie compatriots, as the filmmakers claim). In his defense, though, the character went through so much drama (Dylan sued to keep his name off the film) that it was already a muddled mess before Christensen even touched it. The film only mentions the name of the popular singer once, and it was obviously filmed as “Bob,” because a loud cat meow obscures it. A huge demerit to Hickenlooper as the scene isn’t even worth the effort to keep it in the final film.

The point may have been to capture Edie and Andy as the raw pseudo-couple they were, but none of it is ever realistic. It’s still the story of an out-there pair, but it’s been run through the soap opera ringer. I’m honestly surprised more scenes don’t end with dramatic music and a troubled stare just off camera. Even the dialogue is that of a hokey screenwriting hack. As Andy leads Edie into one of her first outings as the new it girl, he says, “Just be yourself,” to which she blandly replies, “Well, which one?” How about you try the interesting one? There’s got to be one in there worthy of more than this banal faux- pensive schlock.

Andy Warhol was the kind of nutbar that should always make for entertaining cinema. But perhaps he was such a kook that anything he appears in should be a dark comedy, not a dismal indie drama. All the potential is there too. When Edie is complaining about her parents lack of response to Minty’s death, perhaps the movie would have been saved if instead of not crying, her father would have shouted “I love my dead gay son!” It’s still probably not enough to save this movie from being awful, but it worked for “Heathers.” I guess anything’s possible.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15438&reviewer=401
originally posted: 02/17/07 00:23:30
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User Comments

5/13/09 Colin M Sienna Miller is surprisingly good. Hayden Christensen is predictably bad. 3 stars
10/18/08 mr.mike Watchable , though inferior to "I Shot Warhol". 4 stars
11/25/07 Ionicera Hayden Christensen needs to be banned from acting 2 stars
8/04/07 Charles Tatum Miller channels Liza Minnelli in shallow biopic 3 stars
2/20/07 Sully At best on after school movie for the junkie set. (& who is Andy Warhol these days?) 2 stars
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  29-Dec-2006 (R)
  DVD: 17-Jul-2007



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