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"Factory Girl" Poster

Factory Girl

Genre: Drama
Rated: R
Directed by: George Hickenlooper
Starring: Sienna Miller, Guy Pearce, Hayden Christensen, Jimmy Fallon, Mena Suvari
Released by:
The Weinstein Company

In Short: Well-acted story of 1960s icon Edie Sedgwick fails to show why she was an icon—and therefore why we should care about this biopic.

Edie Who?
Miller as Sedgwick Works, Movie Doesn't

by James Riswick

Who is Edie Sedgwick? If you don’t know the answer to that question beyond “that cute blonde from the ‘60s,” then the purpose of “Factory Girl” will probably be lost upon you. To the uninformed relying solely on the movie, Sedgwick was her generation’s equivalent of Paris Hilton—a spoiled socialite, who instead of hanging out with the Girls Gone Wild guy and Britney Spears, cavorted with Andy Warhol and Bob Dylan.

Comparing anyone to Paris Hilton is just cruel, so we’ll stop that analogy right there. The film shows Sedgwick (Sienna Miller) as the glamorous “it” girl of the moment, immersed in the world of Warhol’s superficial (and totally bizarre) “Factory” art and film studio in New York. She is a tragic figure who is broken by that world, succumbing to her own drug-induced demons that were so common in that era (and in biopics).

Sienna Miller as Edie Sedgwick and Guy Pearce as Andy Warhol in "Factory Girl"
Andy Warhol's entourage in "Factory Girl"

The problem is, the film does not present anything more than a personality profile of a person who really doesn’t seem all that important. Even if you didn’t know much about Johnny Cash, “Walk the Line” at least told a compelling story about compelling characters. Andy Warhol and his entourage (including Sedgwick) are strange, superficial and completely oblivious to the tumultuous era that is going on around them. Quite simply, they’re irritating. When Hayden Christensen shows up as a “musician” (quite obviously Bob Dylan, who's name was left out allegedly for legal reasons), a breath of fresh air is injected both into the film and Edie, who actually displays some depth. Even if you don’t know this is Dylan (or believe the filmmakers when they say its not), his relationship with Sedgwick brings her dark, painful past to the surface and creates a strong juxtaposition to her other life with Warhol.

Jimmy Fallon (middle) and Sienna Miller (right) in "Factory Girl"
Sienna Miller as Edie Sedgwick and Guy Pearce as Andy Warhol in "Factory Girl"

Edie Sedgwick was a huge cultural phenom, but the film doesn't do a good enough job getting that across. To the uninformed then, Warhol and Dylan are far more interesting than the title character. She’s tragic, yes, but as the girl who had everything, it’s sort of hard to feel sorry for her. As the credits roll, several of Sedgwick’s real-life friends and colleagues reflect on how inspirational, trend-setting and generally great she was—unfortunately, the preceding film didn’t really convey that. Watching her “Biography” on A&E would have been far more productive.

British actress Sienna Miller is actually very good as Sedgwick and this should be considered her break-out performance that proves she’s more than just Jude Law’s jilted ex-girlfriend. The rest of the cast, including Guy Pearce as Warhol, also do a great job bringing these real people to life. Christensen’s portrayal of Dylan is particularly spot-on and not at all cartoony (his intense love scene with Miller is a far cry from the young Anakin Skywalker we once knew). Director George Hickenlooper also does a commendable job adeptly interweaving his footage with remade versions of Warhol’s short films that made Sedgwick a superstar.

This all adds up to a film that’s hard to make heads or tails of. It’s well-made and well-acted, and yet ultimately, the subject matter isn’t that compelling. Perhaps if you lived in the era and were influenced by Edie Sedgwick or Andy Warhol, “Factory Girl” would have a deeper resonance. But a good biopic (or any film for that matter) shouldn’t require the audience to go in having read the biography to fully appreciate it.


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