Oh, the agony of great performances trapped in mediocre movies. Sienna Miller and Guy Pearce must know that specific, exquisite pain all too well, having delivering a pair of fantastic, fully alive turns as Edie Sedgwick and Andy Warhol, respectively, only to have director George Hickenlooper's well-intentioned biopic Factory Girl collapse around them like a Factory party animal OD'ed on speed and champagne. While I'm sure my poor little pedestrian mind can't handle the genius at which Hickenlooper and screenwriter Captain Mauzner are so clearly aiming (more on that in a minute), Factory Girl is a diffuse, showy piece of work that can't quite live up to its ambitions -- which, some might say, is an oh-so-apt metaphor for the life of one Ms. Sedgwick.
As is all too common with biopics that want to reveal "the true person" behind all the smoke and mirrors of myth, Factory Girl becomes bogged down in the details, fascinated by minutiae that doesn't necessarily advance the plot. A film ostensibly about the swift ascension and just as rapid decline of Edie Sedgwick (Miller), a "poor little rich girl" who found favor with rising art star Andy Warhol (Pearce), it overreaches, supposing a cultural impact far beyond what Sedgwick may have actually had; put it this way -- there aren't too many kids at the mall clamoring for Sedgwick hairdos or floor-length fur coats.
Another sizable problem with the film is that it becomes distracted by the psychedelic whirl surrounding Warhol; preoccupied with including as many references as possible to the near-pornographic nature of Warhol's filmed work as well as the dirty-minded hangers-on who spend their days sketching penises, Factory Girl tries to make the connection between Sedgwick's willing seduction by the avant-garde art world and her eventual fall from grace -- a sort of spiritual rape, if you will -- but fails. I could go into the whole faux Bob Dylan thing (apparently, the filmmakers weren't allowed to use Dylan's songs or his likeness) so they elected to let viewers fill in the blanks, although Hayden Christensen -- whose Dylanesque accent comes and goes -- might be more at home in a Sex Pistols biopic. Add to this the hey-look-at-me supporting cast (Jimmy Fallon, Mary Kate Olsen, Cary Elwes) and the whole thing groans under its own weight.
Ultimately, Factory Girl can't achieve its penetrating biopic aspirations because it's simply too glib, too wrapped up in the surface of things (oh, the irony). Some unfortunate trust fund baby was sexually abused and locked away in a mental facility so she acted out with a motley band of '60s provocateurs? Way to diminish one person's life and sufferings. As if sensing their film's lightweight nature, the filmmakers include a quick scroll of real-life talking heads over the final credits; it's a welcome dose of humanity, but by then, it's too little, too late. See the film for Miller and Pearce's electrifying work, but don't plan on adding it to your collection.
As to the film's "unrated" status, I'm guessing most of the more explicit sex scenes are where the filmmakers reinstated footage; according to IMDb, the film's theatrical run time was a lean 90 minutes. This new cut runs around 99 minutes, but being unfamiliar with the first cut, I can't speak to any major additions or deletions. If any DVD Talk readers know of specific elements that were snipped out for theatrical release, let me know and I'll amend the review accordingly.
Factory Girl, for all of its scripted and directorial noodling, looks great in spite of itself; the film, presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, jumps around from grainy 16 mm to hyper-real DV to lush 35 mm, no doubt meant to imply an air of artiness, but merely coming across as pretentious. The heady visual chaos of the mid-'60s is captured well, but it all becomes a bit tiresome by the film's end.
A film driven by dialogue and obscure '60s rock tunes, Factory Girl sounds fairly solid, thanks to its Dolby Digital 5.1 track. There's no glaring audio defects such as distortion or drop-out and every crystalline giggle Edie emits is heard clearly. Optional English and Spanish subtitles are also included.
Plenty of supplements to sift through -- director George Hickenlooper sits for a slightly condescending commentary for his "kind of, close to a director's cut" of a film about "the second most important artist of the 20th century" and "his muse, Edie Sedgwick." It's revealing how defensive Hickenlooper is about the film's early shortcomings and his need for reshoots; despite a few potshots at critics, the director of Factory Girl doesn't hold back, allowing a peek behind the curtain at the creation of this erratic film. In addition, there's a one minute, 21 second deleted scene, presented in fullscreen with optional Hickenlooper commentary; "The Real Edie," a 28 minute, 22 second fullscreen featurette; the meandering 19 minute, 57 second "Guy Pearce's Video Diary"; seven minutes and 22 seconds of Sienna Miller's audition, with the nine minute, 58 second fullscreen featurette "Making 'Factory Girl'" and the film's theatrical trailer completing the disc.
Factory Girl can't achieve its penetrating biopic aspirations because it's simply too glib, too wrapped up in the surface of things (oh, the irony). Some unfortunate trust fund baby was sexually abused and locked away in a mental facility so she acted out with a motley band of '60s provocateurs? Way to diminish one person's life and sufferings. As if sensing their film's lightweight nature, the filmmakers include a quick scroll of real-life talking heads over the final credits; it's a welcome dose of humanity, but by then, it's too little, too late. See the film for Miller and Pearce's electrifying work, but don't plan on adding it to your collection. Only recommended for the work of the two leads.