Factory Girl

dir: George Hickenlooper
[img_assist|nid=776|title=Inside, I am already dead|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=250]
With no intended slight against the girl herself, I can’t think of a figure less worthy of cinematic biographical treatment than Edie Sedgwick, solely based on this flick here.

The only reason I ever knew anything about her was because of a song by The Cult back in the late 80s that was presumably about her called Edie(Ciao Baby), which featured a video where long-haired hair bear lead singer Ian Astbury was smashing a pool cue on a table for no discernable reason. And then there’s all those Warhol films and Chelsea bloody Hotel references.

In other words, she was a person who was famous for being famous for knowing famous people. This flick goes no way towards disabusing viewers of such a notion, nor does it presume to give her even any basic semblance of humanity or interest.

Who’d have thought that being the alleged most notorious party girl of her day, and being a hanger-on to the likes of Andy Warhol and Bob Dylan could be so dull?

Sienna Miller doesn’t do a bad job of playing this creature, but she fails, because the script fails, to give anyone a reason to ever watch the flick again, or to have any sympathy for the girl, or to feel anything but a dull irritation as the movie unfolds clumsily. What moments there are where we are expected to understand why she became what she became are presented in such a shrill and calculated fashion that they serve to muddle proceedings further instead of clarifying them.

Edie arrives in New York intending to be an artist herself, but she is caught up in the ‘happening’ world of Andy Warhol (Guy Pearce), who is fascinated by her. Of course, his interest in her isn’t romantic or sexual, but he seems to see in her the infinite pliability that he sees in almost any object or artwork. She becomes something he can manage, manipulate, pose and work, and he turns her into a star simply so he can say he has done so. As presented here, he may have had some affection for her at first, perhaps as the fellow sister he always wanted.

To Edie, Warhol is a genius and she is happy to tell anyone she meets so, including a guy called Quinn (Hayden Christiansen), who looks suspiciously like a young Bob Dylan. Quinn is celebrated as more than just a folk singer on the rise; he is seen as more of a movement or a force in and of himself. She tells Andy that Quinn is a genius, and vice versa, and that they should somehow collaborate. Unsurprisingly, despite having some minor affection for Edie, he is taken aback by her assessment. At best he thinks Warhol is a fucking idiot, and at worst he sees him as the vampire that he was, and thus her use of the term ‘genius’ to describe them both seems contemptible. And thus Edie seems contemptible.

Warhol’s jealousy over her adulation of Quinn leads him to either want to destroy Edie or at least to cut her off. At the same time, quite conveniently, Edie’s downward spiral gathers momentum with her increasing drug use, which means her empty life hurtles towards its end with the only speed bumps being some additional degradation along the way.

You almost suspect, though I’m pretty sure it was never the maker’s intention, that the flick’s sole purpose is to be a moral fable of how a lifestyle that goes against the grain of 9-to-5 family values crap leads to humiliation, isolation and death. As if the 9-to5 family values type world doesn’t lead to humiliation, isolation and death anyway.

The main difference is the clothing and the fun had along the way, surely, darlings.

It’s impossible to look at a movie that is so focussed on the vacuousness of celebrity without seeing it as a comment on the vacuousness of contemporary, um, celebrities. Even if it wasn’t intended as such, it has to bring to mind the kinds of shameless hussies and drug-addled drongos who often seem to be more famous for their tabloid shenanigans than whatever their primary source o’revenue is supposed to be, if they actually have one.

But the real nub of discontent whenever someone makes a flick about the unholy nature of celebrity is that it’s really more a way of tut-tutting and shaking the finger at the audience, the argument being that the public’s slavering hunger for their antics creates these people, which is the most pointless chicken before the egg argument around. Who cares. They deserve each other; the dumb ‘public’ as it is conceived and the dumber celebrities that prey/are preyed upon by them are a co-dependent marriage made in hell.

All these musings shouldn’t give the impression that the flick is in anyway memorable or even worthwhile even as a conversation starter afterwards. In fact, I’m wondering why I’m even bothering to review it right about now. It is, in truth, a dull survey of a dull person’s life. No-one in the entire flick, except for some of the many cameos, does anything even remotely interesting. And the only time when Warhol impersonator Guy Pearce does anything interesting, it’s whilst being blankly vicious to Edie.

Edie is the perpetually acted-upon, put-upon, hard done-by. She’s not even an actor in her own story. Everything that happens to her, from the good to the degrading, is done to her, never with her approval or even consent. She is a passenger in her own life, and it renders either the portrayal or the person utterly worthless for the purposes of an illuminating character study. It is shallow even by the standards of pop biopics.

The purpose of any such biography should rarely be to make you think about how unworthy a person’s life story is of being documented. But if that was their intention here, then they succeeded with flying, bleeding colours.

Monster, about serial killer Aileen Wournos, was a more sympathetic biopic. Use that as your benchmark, and despair.

3 levels upon which you wouldn’t have thought the lives of such ‘famous’ people were so deathly dull out of 10

“I think I'll quit my painting and just make Edie a big star.” – Factory Girl.