Factory Girl Review

by [email protected] (dnb AT dca DOT net)
February 20th, 2007

A film review by David N. Butterworth
Copyright 2007 David N. Butterworth

** (out of ****)

    Prurient moviegoers hoping for some insider dirt into Sixties icon Edie Sedgwick's tragic life and (some say pornographic) times would do better to consult her extensive and well-written Internet Movie Database bio than to waste their hard-earned dollars on "Factory Girl," a bland and frustratingly superficial look at Andy Warhol's ill-fated superstar.
    For "Factory Girl" is all surface gloss and glamour. It's a film that shoots for credibility by trying to recreate the look and feel of the swinging period (in the guise of Warhol's pop artistry at The Factory studios in Manhattan) while divorcing itself from anything substantive.

    What little you may know going in about Edith Minturn Sedgwick isn't likely to be changed much by the time you stagger out: she was thin, blonde, and affectless--end of story.

    The film comes to life in a couple of sequences, particularly when Edie's scarily manipulative father Fuzzy (John Naughton) meets Warhol for the first time over dinner, and when Edie tells Bob Dylan (name changed to Billy Quinn at the musician's request) about the deaths of her brothers. But otherwise it's all posturing and pretense, an exposé that digs no deeper than fatuous fashion and clichéd misspent youth.
    From his bristling Brillo pad, Warhol popped out silk-screen creations and direction-less movies with brilliant abandon, his infamous Campbell soup cans and economically titled reels such as "Kiss" (50 minutes of people kissing), "Sleep" (51/2 hours of someone sleeping), and "Empire" (a single, 485-minute shot of the Empire State Building from dusk till dawn). Enter Sedgwick stage left. Said to have been the inspiration for much of Warhol's art (although his genius was clearly on display long before Chuck Wein ever introduced them), this poor little rich girl quickly became the platinum-wigged icon's most popular actress, "starring" in such films as "Horse," "Chelsea Girls," and, yes, "Poor Little Rich Girl."

    As Sedgwick, Sienna Miller (Lasse Hallström's "Casanova") is fine, if severely limited by her character's dullsville response to the predictable pulls of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. Even Warhol's Polish mother (played by Beth Grant) has more charisma than the one-note Sedgwick! But the film's saving grace is the chameleon-like Guy Pearce, who plays Warhol with an eloquent and soft-spoken intensity. Whenever Pearce is on screen there's hope for the picture.

    As for the supporting cast, director George Hickenlooper peppers his film with some odd casting choices. That's "SNL"'s Jimmy Fallon as Edie's Henry Higgins-like mentor Wein, Hayden Christensen as the ramblin' young Dylan (sorry, Quinn), Father Guido Sarducci (Don Novello) as a heavy, and a high-billed Illeana Douglas in a brief scene that feels borrowed from someplace else. Adding to the lackluster treatment is a decision to have a supposedly rehabbed Sedgwick (devoid of makeup for optimal emotional effect) speaking with her off-screen shrink in that faux-documentary style all too common to films with nothing to say.

David N. Butterworth
[email protected]

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