Swiftly assembled pic salvaged by engaging lead perf

Factory Girl

on December 29, 2006 by Wade Major
If Andy Warhol truly believed that fame would eventually become a 15-minute birthright for every individual, it's probably because his own fame rubbed off so easily on those around him. How else to explain three films in ten years — Basquiat, I Shot Andy Warhol and the new Factory Girl — all detailing the brief, tragic lives of individuals whose fame came as a direct result of contact with the renowned pop icon?

In Factory Girl the spotlight falls on starlet Edie Sedgwick, a onetime aspiring artist and blueblood debutante who briefly appeared in Warhol's films (and occasionally on his arm) before abandoning Warhol and his Factory crowd for singer Bob Dylan. But the Dylan relationship eventually disintegrated, reportedly sending Sedgwick into the proverbial downward spiral of drug and alcohol abuse.

Directed by George Hickenloooper from a screenplay by Aaron Richard Golub and Wonderland scribe Captain Mauzner, Factory Girl is generally more engaging than either Basquiat or I Shot Andy Warhol, but it's also more problematic, stemming, to no small degree, from the creative battles reportedly waged over its hastily assembled final cut. Although down-to-the-wire filmmaking almost never turns out well, performances are what save the day here, notably Sienna Miller's magnetic turn as Sedgwick. One could easily sell the performance short — Sedgwick herself was a fairly shallow individual and an absolutely terrible actress, the Paris Hilton of her day. But Miller plays it straight and never for undue sympathy, fashioning Sedgwick as a tragic victim of circumstance who further compounded her own misery with avoidable bad choices.

It's Guy Pearce's Warhol, however, that gives the film the essential credibility that sustains everything else within it. Unlike his predecessors — Crispin Glover, David Bowie and Jared Harris, among others — Pearce sees Warhol as neither freak nor genius. Selfish, childlike and strangely apathetic to anyone or anything that had outlived its usefulness, it's a Warhol that won't sit especially well with fans, even though it dovetails far more accurately with the recollections of those who knew and worked with him.

Ironically, the one figure who seems to disappear in the effort is director Hickenlooper, an oft-overlooked indie icon whose resume includes the documentaries Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse and Mayor of the Sunset Strip, the dramas The Man from Elysian Fields and The Big Brass Ring and the original short that inspired Billy Bob Thornton's Sling Blade. Hickenlooper's Reds -style insertion of interview footage with figures who knew Sedgwick never quite clicks, and, if not for the strength of the performances, his evocation of the era and Warhol's Factory would come off as uninspired.

Clearly, haste and budget are contributing factors, and Hayden Christensen's bizarre attempt at channeling Dylan (referred to as “Billy Quinn” for legal reasons) doesn't help. But, even when the film loses direction and fumbles about, Miller is undeniably engaging. That's probably not enough to save the movie from obscurity, but it should, at the very least, guarantee bigger and better things for its star. Distributor: MGM
Cast: Sienna Miller, Guy Pearce, Hayden Christensen, Jimmy Fallon and Meredith Ostrom
Director: George Hickenlooper
Screenwriters: Aaron Richard Golub and Captain Mauzner
Producers: Aaron Richard Golub, Malcolm Petal and Holly Wiersma
Genre: Drama
Rating: R
Running time: 90 min.
Release date: February 2, 2007 ltd

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