2006, R, 87 min. Directed by George Hickenlooper. Starring Sienna Miller, Guy Pearce, Shawn Hatosy, Mena Suvari, Jimmy Fallon, Illeana Douglas, Armin Amiri, Beth Grant, Edward Herrman, Hayden Christensen.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Feb. 23, 2007
Who is this generation's It Girl? And does it deserve one? There's an argument to be made for Paris Hilton, whose absurdist antics in the public eye reach up, into, and ultimately beyond the crass cookie jar of pop culture detritus, a persona that pays cheap, brassy coinage to Factory Girl subject Edie Sedgwick while at the same time making Warhol's poor little rich girl seem downright classy by comparison. It's a small (but undeniably fun) pleasure to witness the 24-hour partybot that is Paris Hilton, but you need only glance at her eyes to suss the difference between these two iconic socialites. Hilton's peepers are invariably at half-mast, as if she couldn't be bothered to view anything outside her immediate radius. Sedgwick's eyes, rimmed in solarized panda bear kohl and caged behind false eyelashes of such garish sturdiness even Harry Houdini might have found them overly binding, were rarely less than startlingly wide-open, even when she was looking inward and attempting to face off the double demons of drug abuse and mental illness that ultimately ended her life in 1971 at the ripe young age of 29. Sedgwick's gaze demanded your attention; Hilton's makes you want to hide your stash better. Miller (Layer Cake) nails the late heiress' gamine naivete in Hickenlooper's biopic, but the film feels far too pat for its own good. (Hickenlooper's documentary on L.A. scenestar Rodney Bingenheimer, Mayor of the Sunset Strip, painted a vastly more powerful picture of the wages of pop iconography.) Factory Girl opens and closes with Sedgwick reflecting on her past while going through rehab in California. In between, the film accurately traces her doomed trajectory from Cambridge art school student to the New York City of 1965, where she meets and is eventually co-opted, body and soul, by Andy Warhol (the chameleonic Pearce, who descends into the role with limp gusto) and his entourage of Factory people before falling for Bob Dylan (Christensen, vaguely billed as the "Musician"), thus incurring Warhol's diffident excommunication before shacking up in the world's most famous halfway house of the damned, the Chelsea Hotel. Cinematographer Michael Grady and production designer Jeremy Reed get Sedgwick-era New York down pat (props to costume designer John Dunn as well), from the silverized Factory interior to Warhol's Querelle-ian striped T-shirt and black-leather couture, but Factory Girl nonetheless feels both shallow (which could very well be Hickenlooper's point; if so, it's a blunder since Sedgwick was then and remains now far more than a dumb-blonde joke) and overdone. Exposition abounds, and while it may be necessary in light of the passage of time, it still makes Sedgwick's 15 minutes feel like 15 years. Still, Miller's performance is a thing of bewildered, brilliant debris. You leave the theatre thinking that Sedgwick did not go lightly (à la Holly) into that good night.