The Campbell’s Soup can proves half empty

By and

“Factory Girl”MGM Pictures and The Weinstein CompanyDirected by George HickenlooperWritten by Aaron Richard Golub and Captain MauznerStarring: Sienna Miller, Guy Pearce, Hayden Christensen, Jimmy Fallon, James Naughton, Shawn Hatosy and Beth GrantRated R/90 minutesOpened Feb. 16, 2007Two out of four stars

Maybe there were two or three reels missing from the final print of “Factory Girl.” That might explain some things. Maybe in those two or three reels we would have discovered the significance of Edie Sedgwick and why she’s worthy of the biopic treatment.

We know that there is something about her that makes her enigmatic, something that gets her up close and personal with the likes of Andy Warhol and Bob Dylan (actually, for legal reasons, it’s technically not Dylan but “Billy Quinn”). The movie wants to see her as that enigma, but never captures her in that way-nor does the film do a good job getting to the root of her character. Like I said, a few more reels (and a talented writer or two) might have helped, because a 90-minute life story doesn’t do the trick.

Certainly there’s something to be said about an attractive woman who, for a brief period of time, stole America’s attention before descending into drug abuse and dying of an overdose at the age of 28. In a decade in which everything seemed to be exploding at once, Sedgwick was relevant, even if only for a year or two. She was the shining star of Warhol’s Factory, starring in his underground films and even being referred to as “Miss Warhol.” That their friendship disintegrated after about a year speaks only to the fact that, in that one year, she was able to have such an impact on pop culture.

If only the film had explored that-captured what made the heiress/debutante/actress/model such a prominent figure that people still talk about her four decades later-maybe we could have felt what it was like to be near her. But George Hickenlooper’s “Factory Girl” is so unfocused and undercooked that we never get a sense of Sedgwick’s significance.

We can see that Edie is using the “glamorous” New York art scene as an escape from herself, or at least her background. We can see the effect she has on Warhol (Guy Pearce) through his eyes. But why? And how? Even if she can’t be explained in words or actions, shouldn’t we be made to understand, in a more emotional or abstract sense, what she represents?

At one point someone suggests to Warhol, “You wouldn’t be where you are without Edie.” Someone else says he’s “never met anybody like her before.” But those arguments are never supported by any evidence. And the problem isn’t in the acting. Sienna Miller, not just a gorgeous face but a genuinely talented actress, does what she can with the thin material. She expresses some of the fragility and sadness-hidden beneath that electric smile and her glamorous lifestyle-that could make Edie a poignant character. It’s been well-documented that executive producer Harvey Weinstein was trying to push Miller for an Oscar nomination, but maybe he should have worried a bit more about the quality of the product. Miller’s acting speaks for itself-although it would speak a lot louder if she had any sort of script to work with.

Hickenlooper even tries to cover up the holes in the story through the use of a wholly unnecessary voiceover, but that only exacerbates the problem. The film’s few saving graces are the admirable but diluted performances of Miller and Pearce and a handful of nice character-building scenes that would have been more effective if the characters themselves meant anything. It is interesting to see Hayden Christensen as a thinly veiled Dylan facsimile rather than an annoying, monotone Jedi. But his performance, while interesting in parts, comes across as little more than an imitation of Dylan’s voice and persona.

Maybe that character speaks to “Factory Girl” as a whole. The film knows what its characters are rather than who they are, and try as Hickenlooper might to capture that world they inhabit, he’s always on the outside looking in.

“I’m beautiful, boho, totally fab great. But you know, people like me, and that’s all that matters.” Sienna Miller tries to flesh out Edie Sedgwick in “Factory Girl.”