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Factory Girl

USA 2006
Directed by
George Hickenlooper
87 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Factory Girl

Synopsis:  A portrait of Edie Sedgwick – a young American blueblood and sometime "IT" girl who was briefly associated with Andy Warhol’s Factory before descending into a pattern of drug abuse that led to her untimely death.  

The  main problem of making movies about the ‘60s is that as the first true celebrity decade it is so well-documented that film-makers are caught in the trap of simply replaying the well-established myths. The trivial end of the problem is how to visually portray people who are for all intents and purposes are no more than images, the more difficult task is how to make them dramatically interesting.  

George Hickenlooper’s film struggles with these issues commendably but not triumphantly. In the first respect he spends a lot of time reproducing the look and manners of the period but at no stage does the film ever feel more than a simulacrum. Whilst this is not a problem with the Sedgwick character, of whom few people will know, we get an overload of a bewigged Guy Pearce doing the characteristically mannered Andy Warhol thing and even worse, in the portrayal of Edie’s fictionalized relationship with singer/songwriter Billy Quinn (Hayden Christensen), a character closely resembling Bob Dylan but who the makers ingenuously claim was a “composite” (apparently His Bobness, who tried to stop the film’s distribution, has denied any such liaison). We also get the back of “Mick’s” head and a copy-cat Velvet Underground.  All this, like the mini-skirts and the hoop earrings, although skillfully done, is really only window dressing. The real problem is with the film’s substance.

Rich but damaged, undoubtedly used and abused, Edie Sedgwick’s story is a sad one but that does not make it in itself interesting and Edie is not anywhere as interesting (nor, despite some skills as visual artist, as talented) as the people with whom she was so briefly associated and who, in a horribly Darwinian way, survived her. Had some more time been spent on developing her character beyond simply plotting the story of her meteoric rise and fall, the film might have acquired some dramatic value, but the film-makers are only interested her respective fame and infamy, with limited reference to her pre-Factory days and the final three years of her life being summed up in some cursory end-titles.

In the lead, Sienna Miller does a first class job of being Edie, particularly in latter’s downward spiralling days and she could easily have handled a more substantial role but, ironically, Hickenlooper spends too much time using her as a captivating focal point for yet another voyeuristic trip back to the ‘60s.

FYI: Anyone interested in the real Edie would do well to seek out the 1972 film by John Palmer and David Weisman, Ciao! Manhattan.

DVD Extras: The limited  promotional extras are consistent with the feature production. There’s The Real Edie - an interview with the people seen in the film’s end credits; Guy Pearce’s Video Diary; Making Factory Girl and footage of the film’s gala opening -  On the Red Carpet




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