Sienna Miller and Guy Pierce Soar Above Piecemeal Edie Sedgwick Biopic
By Cole Smithey
Sienna Miller embodies Edie Sedgwick with a thoroughly convincing performance that's a highwire act of emotional and physical alchemy. She matches Guy Pierce’s pitch-perfect incarnation of Andy Warhol in director George Hickenlooper’s perfunctory biopic about the brief heir to ‘60s supermodel Twiggy. The story of American blue blood Edie Sedgwick’s quick rise to fame through her association with Andy Warhol, and her equally rapid burnout due to psychological trauma and drugs, is told through expository flashbacks. An older Edie talks candidly to a Santa Barbara psychiatrist near the end of her life (she died of a drug overdose at the age of 28). In spite of Miller's and Pierce’s spot-on performances, the movie is a scrapbook parade of disjointed set pieces that outline in broad terms the life of an incest survivor repeatedly sent unnecessarily to mental hospitals by her father Fuzzy (James Naughton) in order to hide his sexual relationship with his daughter.
It is a mistake to compare Edie Sedgwick with modern day famous-for-being-famous party girls whose shaved-crotch-appeal amounts to a hill of beans compared to Edie’s liberating boldness, charisma, intelligence, moxy, and timeless beauty. There is a famous black and white photo from the 1965 issue of Vogue magazine where Edie stands in a ballet pose balanced on one leg atop a leather rhino, presumably in an affluent New York apartment. Her arms are extended like a bird’s wings with her fingers held in classical ballet position. She holds a cigarette in her right hand. There’s a large sketch of a horse on the wall behind her that seems to gallop along at the same pace as Edie’s living room flight. In tights and a lose-fitting t-shirt, with short bleached blond hair and fake eyelashes, Edie is a mesmerizing sculpture of a slightly androgynous image whose complexity is limitless in its immediacy and disciplined escapism.
Casting is eighty percent of a director’s job, and George Hickenlooper comes away with an entertaining movie thanks to the expert work of his ensemble cast. Hayden Christensen is the exception. His goofy portrayal of Bob Dylan is referred to in the closing credits only as The Musician. The faux-Dylan romantic subplot with Edie gives a plot twist that causes Warhol to reject Edie out of jealousy. His reaction, coupled with private time spent with Warhol’s Polish mother who regards Edie as a potential girlfriend for Andy, points toward the unlikely couple as two equally asexual beings. Edie’s performance in one of several films she made for Warhol, involves Factory denizen Gerard Malanga (Jack Huston). Edie grooves to the music and glows until a male co-actor approaches her intimately from behind. Edie reacts with a severe revulsion to the physical contact.
Edie is revealed to have legitimized Warhol in several ways at a crucial time in his career. She brings a group of her mother’s wealthy friends to Warhol’s famous Factory to purchase pieces of art which they are happy to learn come in "multiple colors." This financial element inflates Edie’s "Superstar" quality alongside Warhol. She shines with international glamour whenever she appears publicly with Andy before a throng of journalists and photographers.
As a hurried contemplation on a splinter zeitgeist of the ‘60s counter-culture, "Factory Girl" gives flashes of light that do little to illuminate Edie’s date with doom. She foreshadows he early demise in a voice-over narration about the broken lifeline on her palm that predicts she will not live past thirty.
Director Hickenlooper leaves out any reference to John Palmer’s "Caio Manhattan," the vaguely autobiographical film responsible for much of Edie’s lasting fame in our collective subconscious. Its prominent absence only underscores other sketchy elements, like the vague presence of The Velvet Underground, whose music is poorly emulated in the film’s otherwise evocative soundtrack.
Rated R. 87 mins. (C) (Two Stars)
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