Factory Girl

| February 20, 2007

Factory Girl is not a film about Andy Warhol per se, except where he is portrayed as his public persona and as Edie Sedgwick saw the artist.
In another review of the film, LA Weekly reviewer David Ehrenstein writes that the private Warhol was not the cold and shallow-minded, faux-intellectual the public saw interviewed, or the way this film paints the individual.
Whoever Warhol truly was outside of his public image, Hickenlooper’s film is not concerned with Warhol more than to claim that he was the downfall of Edie (Sienna Miller), a daughter of a wealthy family from Santa Barbara. She leaves Radcliffe College in Cambridge, MA, to pursue a life in New York, NY, that she describes in the film as Audrey Hepburn lives in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Having not seen Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Edie is a testament to a way of life that Factory Girl illustrates as naïve and obsessed with pop-culture.
The Bob Dylan impersonator (Hayden Christensen) draws a parallel between Edie’s and Warhol’s relationship and the unhealthy relationship that was the real story of Breakfast at Tiffany’s written about in the Truman Capote novella from which the film was adapted.
The cast reenacts the laissez-faire life that Warhol’s factory-goers were known for having. This detached lifestyle is the downfall of Edie because it prevents her from having a serious relationship with Billy Quinn (Christensen), who is critical of the nonsense of Warhol and his factory.
Edie battles to keep her friendship with Warhol and her new relationship with Quinn. But Warhol becomes the bitter gay boyfriend that he so pitifully portrays behind the period sunglasses he wears on his pale, frail face. This is the Warhol as directed by Hickenlooper and performed by Guy Pearce.
Where Warhol’s complexity distracts from Edie’s story, it is also seen as a reason for Edie’s deconstruction and drug-abusing spiral downward. Though, her life is by right her making regardless of her sexually abusive, cheating father.
The idealistic youth who attended Radcliffe’s Art School becomes an indignant pitiless character. She trusts too much in Warhol, his dreams and his talent, so much that she lets herself be used in order to reach the famous status that we see Warhol feed her.
The unbelievable nature of this film comes from the seemingly off-key performances that demand to be attempted again in another film about these people. What did seem authentic was the film’s sporadic use of black and white film as in Warhol’s films of the time and the images that are reminiscent of the icons Warhol exploited, such as the Empire State Building.
The film puts in to question, however, Warhol’s life, and to try to confirm the accuracy of his portrayal might lead to debate.
Apart from discrepancies about objectivity, Factory Girl is sympathetic of Edie and asks the audience to be also. The temporal discontinuity probably adds to the disjointedness of the lives that Warhol and his Factory-friends live.
Interjecting footage of Edie years later recounting her life during a session with a therapist were unnecessary. These were conscious choices by the filmmakers when more time could have been spent telling Edie’s story through more dialogue and cinematic language.
Real-life interviews with friends and acquaintances speaking of Edie are unexpectedly hitched to the ending credits. They seem to exist for no clear purpose but to make the film seem like a reenactment of a story that should have been produced as part of a documentary.

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