Synopsis: In the 1960s, no star burned brighter than original “It” girl Edie Sedgwick. Starring Sienna Miller (Casanova) in a “captivating, compelling and absurdly sexy” performance (Terry Lawson, Detroit Free Press), Factory Girl follows Edie’s meteoric rise from art student to the top of New York’s fashion scene. As the muse of pop artist Andy Warhol (Guy Pearce), Edie paid a steep price for fame. An intoxicating journey through pop-culture history, Factory Girl takes us inside Warhol’s legendary studio, where the worlds of art, fashion and celebrity all collided.
Factory Girl 7.5
eyelights: Guy Pierce’s performance. its portrayal of the relationship between Edie and Andy.
eyesores: Hayden Christensen as Bob Dylan.
“My lifeline is broken. I know I won’t live past thirty.”
The first time I ever heard of Edie Sedgwick was because of The Cult’s song “Edie (Ciao Baby)”. This was pre-internet, so I had no idea what the reference was; it’s not like the lyrics made explicit mention of her. For some reason, I eventually got into my head that she was a model, but it turns out that Sedgwick was one of the first socialites famous for being famous.
And she had Andy Warhol to thank for that.
‘Factory Girl’ is a 2006 biopic that attempts to capture the year during which Sedgwick met Warhol and was introduced to his artistic enclave, The Factory. Set in 1965, the pair were inseparable, and Warhol’s main focus became making of Sedgwick his “Superstar”; she would always be by his side wherever he went, and she became the star of all his experimental films.
By the end of that year, however, they had a falling out and Edie struggled with her career, her depleted finances and her drug abuse. Once the beneficiary of a large trust fund, she had burned through all her money and was virtually disowned by her parents due to her association with Warhol and his friends. She spun out of control and died of an overdose in 1971.
‘Factory Girl’ is a confounding motion picture. Though it’s as decent a biopic as any I’ve seen, the facts aren’t exactly made explicit. For starters, it’s not at all clear that most of her time at The Factory took place in less than a year. It’s also suggested that it’s at The Factory that she started taking drugs, when apparently she started during her modeling days.
Most of all, though, there’s the suggestion that her relationship with Bob Dylan is the reason for her falling out with Warhol. Apparently Dylan has long denied having a relationship with her, though he admits to having known her, but here we’re told that he specifically sought her out and that they had a love affair that ended over her connection with Warhol.
In the movie, she also claims that it’s her life’s greatest regret.
Dylan is portrayed here as a huge jerk, who parades under the pretense of not caring about stardom and wealth, but betrays his true nature in his lifestyle and in the way he handles the media. He also turns on Sedgwick when she sets up a meeting with Warhol, thinking that the pair could make movies together; he and his entourage mock Warhol to his face.
The worst of it is that Dylan is played by Hayden Christensen, who is something like four miles tall, towering over everyone. Perhaps it was a conscious choice to make Dylan (known here as “The Musician”) look different to avoid a lawsuit, but it irked me. It doesn’t help that Christensen is hardly a great thespian, though he affected a Dylan-esque accent.
Sedgwick is incarnated by Sienna Miller, who received plaudits for her performance. Perhaps it’s a matter of not knowing anything about the real person, but I didn’t find Miller all that great. She was good, yes, but not great: she was believable both as the socialite and as the out-of-control party girl, but I wouldn’t at all say that this was a star performance.
The one truly memorable performance comes from Guy Pierce as Warhol. Again, I know very little about the real Warhol, but Pierce plays him soft-spoken, enigmatic, and a bit creepy, like an ethereal creature with the power to reshape the world around him. What I found fascinating was how oblivious he could be one moment and then sharp and witty in another.
Pierce’s performance is stunning; if Warhol wasn’t a real person then this would be an unforgettable creation on his part. He was able to make Warhol convincingly starry-eyed and warm to Sedgwick and then turn on a dime and become cold and cruel (this Warhol had her sexually-assaulted on film and betrayed her!). He was even dismissive of her after her death.
That she was denigrate even in death is tragic in light of her past history, having been abused by her father and even sent to a mental institution by him to hide his infidelities. Sedgwick was severely damaged goods and deserves sympathy, not alienation. She needed therapy, not sedation. But she didn’t get the help she needed and instead burned bright and fast.
And extinguished equally quickly.
‘Factory Girl’ ends with a series of pictures of the real Edie Sedgwick and interviews with her family and friends over the closing credits. I wondered why, if they had access to archival material and the real people, the filmmakers didn’t simply make a documentary on her instead. Were they seeking legitimacy by tacking this stuff to the end of their film?
Well, it seems like a missed opportunity to me.
In any event, at the least the picture left me with a better sense of what took place, even though some of it may be speculative or even fabricated; at least now I have a better sense of Edie Sedgwick’s place in pop culture, something that no song could ever hope to convey. But it’s yet another tragic tale in that endless, youth-riddled landscape.
She deserved better.
Date of viewing: December 18, 2016