By Steve Bloom
Hollywood's latest take on Andy Warhol focuses on his temporary muse, Edie Sedgwick, who burst on the Factory scene like a comet in 1965. She's the star of George Hickenlooper's Factory Girl, in theaters now.
The movie is not without its controversies. Bob Dylan has threatened to sue for defamation of character and Lou Reed allegedly hates it. Sedgwick (played by Sienna Miller) arrives from Boston a well-to-do 22-year-old woman seeking attention, glamour and fame in '60s New York City. She's introduced to Warhol (Guy Pearce) at a Factory party and soon begins appearing in his low-budget avant-garde flicks. This is a happy time for Edie, who dresses up like a model and consumes lots of drugs (heroin, barbiturates). Sedgwick's suddenly Warhol's “It Girl.”
The movie spins off its rails a bit when a character based on Bob Dylan (Hayden Christensen) enters the picture. Warhol becomes jealous of their "relationship" and soon casts her out of his scene, leading Sedgwick to despair. The Dylan character, meanwhile, has a fling with Sedgwick before dumping her for his first wife, Sarah. More despair.
Dylan contends he did no such thing and was not responsible for Sedgwick's suicidal drug use. (She died of a barbiturate overdose in 1971.) However, many theorize that Dylan was indeed smitten by Sedgwick and wrote "Just Like a Woman" about her.
Christensen's pseudo-Bob is a trip. He talks like a beatnik/biker, smokes pot (in one scene he passes a joint to Warhol, who reluctantly takes a toke) and has distain for Warhol, whose art he doesn't appreciate much less understand. But when it comes time for her to make a choice, the unstable Edie picks Warhol. She later realizes it might have been the worst decision of her life.
The film is a biopic based on reality, but it's also fiction, and taken on those terms is a compelling if sad portrait of love, loss and celebrity (all 15 minutes of it) in the swinging '60s.
Miller and Pearce nail their roles, and Christiansen, whose "impersonation" of Dylan has been called "abysmal" by the New York Times, is, well, worth seeing. Reed's Velvet Underground make a brief appearance, but of course that's not Lou in the dark glasses, now is it?
If you want to know more about Edie Sedgwick, pick up a copy of Jean Stein and George Plimpton's Edie: An American Biography.
If you can’t wait for the Oscars, check out the Bloomies - Steve Bloom’s picks for the best in film of 2006.