Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Film Review: Factory Girl

"Factory Girl" *** (out of ****)

It was about a month ago I reviewed the Steve Buscemi comedy "Interview" which also starred Sienna Miller. Watching that film I praised Miller as a wonderful talent. I was so shocked by her performance that I felt she stole the film from Buscemi. So I decided to see more with her to check if her other performances were just as engaging. I'm now here ready to admit I've fallen in love with Sienna Miller.

That may not sound quite professional to hear but Miller is a true beauty and an amazing acting talent. In "Factory Girl" she has a way of lighting up the screen. Seeing her makes me smile. She has the most radiant screen presence of most better known actresses I can think of today. There may have been other actresses who could have played this part, Heather Graham comes to mind, but no one could bring Miller's presence.

"Factory Girl" is based on the life of Edie Sedgwick a model/actress/party girl who associated with Andy Warhol (Guy Pearce). She appeared in many of his "movies" and the two were inseparable. As soon as Warhol saw Edie he knew she had the makings of a star. Her beauty was undeniable.

Sadly Edie Sedgwick's life and career were short lived. She died at 28. Had no money. Became addicted to drugs. And had most of the people she thought were her friends, including Warhol, turn their back on her.

Director George Hickenlopper does a decent job re-creating the times but does however get powerful performances out of Pearce and Miller. We sense the scenes involving Warhol's "Silver Factory" may be as accurate as can be. Everyone takes speed, talks about pretentious art and engaged in free love while the strange Warhol collects these characters for his amusement.

Those characters include Edie's friend Chuck (Jimmy Fallon) and Richie Berlin (Mena Suvari). I've never thought much of Fallon. I probably shouldn't say this but he just seems like a no talent two bit actor who is not under any circumstances funny. But here he is watchable as Edie's gay friend. I think his performance may be as good as it is does we see so little of him. Suvari is also wonderful. I've been a fan of hers since "American Beauty" but I don't think she has done anything which has quite lived up to that film.

There is also a sub-plot involving Edie and a folk singer (Darth Vader himself, Hayden Christensen) who many feel bears a strong resemblance to Bob Dylan, though Dylan's name is never said. The character is simply billed as "musician". It seems Mr. Dylan was going to sue the filmmakers for their portrayal. Others claim "Factory Girl" is a bit fast and loose with its facts as there seems to be no documented proof Edie and Dylan ever had an affair. Though others claim some of Dylan's songs were inspired by her.

The film comes very close to presenting Sedgwick as a victim who had the world turn against her despite her good intentions. Warhol is presented as a heartless worm. A vindictive puppet master who used people for his own pleasure and once he grew tired of them or felt a threat from them he deserted them.

If the film had become very sentimental in its portrayal of Sedgwick I think many viewers may tune out. But the film rise above melodrama. There is no loud, sad music which swells at heartfelt scenes and last minute confessions after Sedgwick's death. But still several critics did not like the film. Two whom I trust the most; Michael Wilmington, then of the Chicago Tribune and Stephen Holden of the New York Times were not pleased with the film. Wilmington wrote the film is "lively but chaotic and evasive. The period re-creation switches on and off." But even he acknowledges Ms. Miller's performance saying she "can seduce the camera". Holden on the other hand had little love for the film describing the film as "a magazine layout masquerading as a film."

Critics who disregard this film I think are missing a larger point, where most of their focus should be. Is "Factory Girl" a great film? No. But people should watch this film for Sienna Miller. We have the makings of a star. Watch the film for no other reason than to see Sienna Miller.