Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Factory Girl

It was with much trepidation that I went and saw George Hickenlooper's Factory Girl last night. When I first heard about this film, which seems like years ago, I was extremely excited mostly because of the casting of Sienna Miller. My initial thought I had the first time I saw Sienna Miller was that she beared an uncanny resemblance to Edie, so at least the casting was right.
The most positive things I can say about Factory Girl all concern Sienna Miller. She gives a rich and fascinating performance that makes Edie Sedgwick human and very real. She was born to play this part, unfortunately George Hickenlooper was not born to direct it.
Factory Girl, at only 90 minutes, covers a very small portion of Edie's life. With the exception of some flashbacks it ignores the childhood which emotionally scarred her and the monster of a father who molested her. This is mentioned in passing but Hickenlooper fails to give the importance to her early years that they deserved. Also nearly totally left out is the fascinating last few years of Edie's life, which in many ways is more interesting than her years with Warhol. We are shown throughout the film Sienna as Edie talking to a psychiatrist about her time in New York but her marriage is only mentioned briefly at the end and her final film Ciao Manhattan is never mentioned.
I realize this film is obviously centered on Edie's years with Warhol but leaving Ciao Manhattan out of the mix is an incredible mistake. The film remains one of the major legacies of Edie Sedgwick's career and life and the absence of even a mention is suspect.
The first half of the film is the strongest, for awhile it seems like Hickenlooper is going to allow Andy Warhol to be human and the early scenes between Andy and Edie are at times touching. Guy Pierce gives a wonderful performance as Warhol but as the film progresses the screenplay and direction lets Pierce and Warhol down. Warhol is presented as a total blank shell at the end and the audience is never told of the assignation attempt that would shatter his psyche and close him off from the sixties.
Warhol was well known as a prodigious worker but mostly in Factory Girl we just see him lying around and we are never given the idea of just how much work this man put out in the sixties. The factory itself is also done very poorly, we just see the same six or seven people lying around over and over again. Hickenlooper as managed to do the near impossible, he has made the factory and the sixties seem pretty boring.
Hickenlooper plays fast and loose with the facts, even going so far as to blatantly change things that we have footage of like interviews and Warhol's films. I realize, of course, that dramatic license has its place but Hickenlooper's disregard for the facts, or even something resembling them, is disturbing.
The Velvet Underground is shown coming in after Edie leaves the factory(one of the film's many WTF moments) and outside of a couple of brief performance clips they are not mentioned. The film's soundtrack is also a bizarre mix of mostly questionable songs but the inclusion of Tim Hardin's haunting Red Balloon is a welcome one.
The film's biggest flaw is the bizarre 'musician' character who is clearly Bob Dylan. Hayden Christensen gives one of the worst performances I have seen in a long time, portraying Dylan as a egotistical shallow bore. It is probably more of Hickenlooper and the screenwriters fault rather than Christensen but all of his scenes are wince inducing. I have no doubt that the relationship between Bob Dylan and Edie Sedgwick was a complex one but this film's portrayal of it is laughable and damaging to all of those involved. Hickenlooper can say what he will but it all comes down to the fact that Dylan (or his image) has a bigger marquee value than say Bob Neuwirth or anybody else who had a bigger impact on Edie Sedgwick. The whole Dylan segment feels like a board room discussion, 'hey let's let Bob Dylan break her heart and everything will make sense'.
Well life doesn't make sense, not yours, mine or Edie Sedgwicks. Hickenlooper would like to convince us that we should blame Bob Dylan or Andy Warhol for Edie Sedgwick's disintegration but the truth is a lot deeper than this film is willing to go.
As I was watching this film I wondered what people who didn't know anything about Edie, Warhol, The Factory, the sixties or even Bob Dylan would take from it. Perhaps that bothered me more than anything else, I have immersed myself with this stuff for almost twenty years but I feel for newcomers who will be sucked into Hickenlooper's limited view.

Someone else should make a film about Edie Sedgwick and Sienna Miller should play her again. Sienna gives a brilliantly moving performance that makes a very flawed and at times corrupt film watchable. It's a performance that is filled with love for Edie Sedgwick and the period that she helped shape, unfortunately she is being filmed by a man who apparently detests both.
Watch Factory Girl for an incredible lead performance and then go and buy the books Girl on Fire and Edie, search down Warhol's incredible films, listen to The Velvet Underground and watch Ciao Manhattan for the real Edie Sedgwick.

"I read that script, it's one of the most disgusting, foul things I've ever seen...by any illiterate retard...in a long time. There's no limit to how low some people will go to write something to make money". -Lou Reed-

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