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Factory Girl **

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Rossiter Drake*

Miller, as Manhattan socialite Edie Sedgwick,
with her 'Musician' friend

(Courtesy of San Francisco Examiner)

Starring: Sienna Miller, Guy Pearce, Hayden Christensen, Jimmy Fallon, Shawn Hatosy, Mena Suvari, Tara Summers. Rated R.

There is a certain sameness to all tales of youth squandered by addiction, a point at which drugs cease to provide a rush and serve only to stave off the agony of withdrawal. The story of Edie Sedgwick, the ’60s starlet created by Andy Warhol and his ever-attentive camera, is no different, save for her brief flirtation with fame. After dropping out of Radcliffe to pursue her dream of being an artist in New York, she quickly settles into a self-destructive groove, surrounded by friends who take advantage of her family’s wealth while encouraging her worst habits.

Among those, Sedgwick is addicted to speed, martinis and Warhol. Factory Girl recounts Sedgwick’s involvement with the high priest of pop art, from its heady beginnings to its bitter conclusion. At first, Warhol (Guy Pearce) is taken with Sedgwick, a vivacious beauty who appeals to his passion for the superficial. He casts her in his movies – particularly bad movies, it would appear – when the two of them aren’t lounging in his famed Silver Factory, exchanging appalling banalities that, in Warhol’s obsessively narcissistic circle, pass for meaningful truths.

Problems arise when Sedgwick falls for a very different ’60s icon, Bob Dylan. (Dylan threatened to sue rather than allow his name to be used; here, he is referred to, somewhat preposterously, as “The Musician.”) The legendary songwriter stands in marked contrast to Warhol, if only because he seems to believe in, well, something. As the hipper-than-thou embodiment of trendy generational values that have no place in the sheltered world of the Silver Factory, Dylan rails in his nasal rasp against materialism, war and the casual indifference of people like Warhol. (As if to prove Dylan’ point, Warhol stupidly sums up the Vietnam War as “kind of neat.”)

Sedgwick soon finds herself ostracized by both men. Dylan has no use for her vapid little circle; Warhol, portrayed as a petulant child bereft of any emotion save jealousy, can’t stomach the idea of another man in her life. Sinking under the weight of her chemical dependencies and cut off financially from her abusive parents, Sedgwick spirals out of control. (In fact, after a fleeting stab at sobriety during which she returned to her Santa Barbara home and entered rehab, she married a fellow patient in 1970. A year later, at 28, she died of an overdose.)

As Sedgwick, Sienna Miller delivers a desperate performance perfectly suited to the ever-changing tone of the material, but Factory Girl proves unworthy of her or Pearce’s efforts. Early on, director George Hickenlooper’s film struggles to find rhythm and purpose, summarizing Sedgwick’s relationship with Warhol through a series of photographic montages as superficial and unrevealing as the characters themselves.

It is only later, when Hickenlooper focuses on the rift between Dylan, Sedgwick and Warhol that Factory Girl develops any dramatic tension. (It doesn’t help that Dylan is reduced, in a regrettably misguided turn by Hayden Christensen, to a one-dimensional fount of countercultural wisdom.) From there, Sedgwick’s decline is swift, and the tragedy of her story finally emerges. She is a lost soul who is abandoned by her friends once the money has gone and the glamour has faded. Warhol comes across as particularly callous. “I didn’t really know her,” he says, explaining that he would mourn Sedgwick’s death, but that it would be much easier not to.

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