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Factory Girl: Unrated DVD Review

Factory Girl: Unrated

July 17, 2007

Director: George Hickenlooper,
Starring: Sienna Miller, Guy Pearce, Hayden Christensen, Jimmy Fallon, Mena Suvari, Shawn Hatosy, Illeana Douglas, Edward Herrmann, Cary Elwes,

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DVD Review

Charles Taylor’s recent article in the New York Times documented the checkered production history of Factory Girl (2006), a biopic about Andy Warhol star, Edie Sedgwick. The shoot was plagued with a shifty financial backer, delays and re-shoots. Then, the filmmakers shot themselves in the foot. Encouraged by footage of Sienna Miller’s performance as Sedgwick, director George Hickenlooper and one of the producers decided to rush the editing process so that the film would be eligible for the Academy Awards. This plan backfired. Miller’s bad behaviour off-screen was dragged through the tabloids and the film was a commercial and critical failure. Harvey Weinstein, who rescued Factory Girl financially, gave Hickenlooper a chance to revisit his movie and edit it properly. Has he made the film better or is this merely a marketing ploy?

The film traces Edie’s life from art college in 1964 to rehab in 1970 as she (Miller) recounts her experiences with Andy Warhol (Pearce) and the Factory crowd. Eager to be an artist, she moves to New York City in 1965 with Chuck Wein (Fallon), a friend from school and sets her sights on Warhol. Edie uses her high society clout to get her foot in the door and he’s instantly captivated by her beauty. Edie and Warhol hit it off and she soon becomes a regular fixture at the Factory, Warhol’s studio, appearing in his movies and becoming his muse.

They become chummy and we see them chat it up on the phone like girlfriends as they gossip about Mick Jagger and share their dreams for the future. The film is about their friendship. Warhol admires Edie’s moxy and her uninhibited nature. She’s the proverbial free spirit and he finds this refreshing. His focus shifts to filmmaking and making her a movie star (“the Queen of Underground Cinema,” as one reporter puts it), appearing in such notable underground films, like Poor Little Rich Girl (1965). Edie starts doing drugs and meets a charismatic musician (Christensen trying hard to channel Bob Dylan) who dazzles her with his music and his presence. Warhol remains unimpressed and becomes growingly jealous of him. And like that, Edie is no longer Andy’s muse. To make matters worse, she also burns her bridges with her family who cut off her trust fund.

Guy Pearce wisely does not play Warhol as a fey artiste like others in the past (Crispin Glover in The Doors and David Bowie in Basquiat). He tones down the man’s more flamboyant qualities to deliver a matter-of-fact performance. The actor immerses himself completely in the role and really captures the spirit of Warhol, more so than any other actor who’s tried to portray him. Pearce captures the man’s genius and his uncanny ability to give memorable quotes to the press at just the right moment.

Sienna Miller completely commits herself to the role and makes us forget that she’s British. She is able to go past the spoiled rich girl facade to another layer, hinting at a past of abuse at the hands of her controlling father. Miller reveals Edie’s emotional core in a scene where she expresses guilt over her brother’s death and how her distant, WASP-y family’s deep denial about it. It’s a moving scene as we realize that she saw Warhol as her escape from a cage with gold bars to a life with other interesting, messed-up people. Factory Girl charts Edie’s inevitable decline into drugs and dodgy schemes as everyone who loved her – Warhol, the musician and her family – turn their backs on her in a cold, cruel way. Miller bravely shows Edie’s self-destruction as she wonders how she went from fresh-faced art student to down and out junkie – a casualty of the Factory.

Factory Girl is not afraid to show Warhol’s flaws – how jealousy manifested itself in the sneaky manipulation he does to confuse Edie. We see how he plays mind games with her in a nasty, ugly way. It’s an unsympathetic portrayal that was only hinted at it in other films like Basquiat (1996). You could argue that Edie was a victim and that all she wanted was for someone to love her, not to be used as a pawn in a pissing match between Warhol and the Dylan-esque musician. This film suggests that she knew what she was doing and made some bad decisions that would lead to tragic consequences.

Special Features:

There is an audio commentary by director George Hickenlooper. He says that it is very expensive to shoot a period film in New York City and so they shot in Louisiana because of the tax breaks and vintage architecture. He points out which scenes were re-shoots and what footage is new for this cut of the film. Hickenlooper touches upon casting Guy Pearce as Warhol and how he wanted an actor who didn’t impose his persona all over the character. The director gushes about Sienna Miller and her performance in the movie. Naturally, he talks about the actual historical details and people on this decent track.

There is a deleted scene with optional commentary by Hickenlooper. It is an improvised scene between Pearce and Miller that showed the growing intimacy between Edie and Warhol.

“The Real Edie” takes a look at the real person with interview soundbites with friends and family members with clips from the movie. These are decent, first-hand accounts of Edie that paint a fascinating portrait.

“Guy Pearce’s Video Diary” features footage shot by the actor and provides an amusing if not self-indulgent snapshot of behind-the-scenes antics by cast and crew. His approach is fly-on-the-wall but has a tendency to drag on for too long.

“Sienna Miller’s Cast Audition” features footage of the actress trying out for the role. It’s impressive to hear how her British accent disappears and she adopts a credible American one.

“Making Factory Girl” is your standard promotional featurette that mixes interview soundbites with cast and crew and clips from the movie. Miller and Pearce are praised to the sky in this fawning love fest.

Finally, there is a theatrical trailer.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance

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Rating: 85%

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