Review by Jack Foley
THE turbulent life of New York It girl and mid-60s fashion icon Edie Sedgwick forms the basis of Factory Girl, an intriguing but ultimately superficial look at her rise and desperate fall.
Director George Hickenlooper’s movie succeeds in capturing the essence of the era in exemplary fashion and boasts a couple of terrific star turns from Sienna Miller, as Sedgwick, and Guy Pearce as Andy Warhol.
But while parallels with today’s It girl culture are certainly eye-opening, the film fails to reveal anything new about its central characters and lacks the courage of its convictions to see things through.
Factory Girl exists in the mid-60s period when Sedgwick fell under Warhol’s spell, became his muse and adorned the cover of countless magazines. It then charts the fallout caused by her ill-advised relationship with a rock star (Hayden Christensen) and her increasing addiction to drugs that ultimately contributed to her suicide years later.
It’s framed by an interview with Sedgwick conducted in 1970, once she had turned her back on New York and traveled to California in search of rehabilitation. And it’s rounded off by interviews with friends and family during the end credits that serve to underline the point of the film (in case we’d missed it) – that Sedgwick shone brightly but was ultimately let down by the people around her.
The film itself has already been closely scrutinized by Bob Dylan, who threatened legal action unless certain script changes were made, but there’s nothing really controversial worth noting. Rather, it plays things a little too safe by frabricating a key character and tip-toeing around some of the key moments in Sedgwick’s life.
The film is at its weakest and least interesting during Sedgwick’s moments with Christensen’s unnamed rock star, possibly because the Star Wars star isn’t quite sure who he’s supposed to be playing. The character is supposedly a composite of several of Sedgwick’s flings but one can’t help but feel he’s supposed to be more directly representative of Dylan. Hickenlooper should perhaps have made it clear, or avoided such pointless territory.
Much better are Sedgwick’s scenes with Warhol, expertly played by Pearce, who emerges as the real reason for her downfall. By toying with Sedgwick, Warhol ultimately contributed to her insecurity and virtually abandoned her following her fling with Christensen’s character. Pearce provides a compelling portrait of a man who held a destructive power over Sedgwick and is uncannily accurate in imitating many of Warhol’s traits.
Miller, too, proves that there’s a fine actress beneath the tabloid surface. She’s perfectly cast as Sedgwick, of course, having lived most of her career in the glare of the flashlight, but she expertly taps into the fear, confusion, paranoia and naivety of her character.
But Hickenlooper eventually can’t resist the temptation to depict Sedgwick in too sympathetic a light and the film feels too rose-tinted as a result. It layers on the tragedy where a little more soul-searching might have worked better. Her sad demise ultimately lacks the poignancy the director was undoubtedly seeking.
Maybe it’s because the celebrity world – both past and present – is littered with all-too-familiar tales of stars who seemingly have it all and lose it, or because the film pulls too many of its punches in favour of a workmanlike approach, but Factory Girl eventually fails to measure up to the sum of its performances. It’s allure is superficial.
Running time: 87mins