No one has described the allure of Edie Sedgwick better than Wayne Koestenbaum in his biography of Andy Warhol: “Hollywood, then or now, wouldn’t know what to do with Edie, who was undisciplined, and whose genius lay in unpremeditated, unhindered gestures.” Those who have seen Sedgwick in Warhol’s films—especially Vinyl and Outer and Inner Space—will recognize her as one of the most charismatic performers of the 1960s. Sedgwick steals the show in the S&M spectacle Vinyl simply by undulating her arm.
Perhaps any biopic on so inimitable a figure would have been doomed to fail. There’s a particular disconnect when Hollywood tries to “do” the Warhol scene, going all the way back to 1969’s Midnight Cowboy. It’s especially paradoxical to mine the sui generis talents of an underground star as a vehicle to bump Sienna Miller from B- to A-list (and how awkward when this same movie tries to re-create the filming of Vinyl). But Factory Girl’s greatest crime is transforming a scene and a personality that were all about movement and flamboyant brilliance into nothing but inert ventriloquism. Those who obsessed over the superb oral history Edie: An American Biography will instantly recognize that 1982 book’s indelible photographs as the basis for the film’s uninspired tableaux: Edie with the bandaged hands, Edie youthquaking for Vogue. Worse, Factory Girl deploys the laziest strategies of the biopic, starting with Miller’s voiceover, speaking as a hippie-haired Edie to a shrink in Santa Barbara, recounting the days with Drella. The most desperate bid for legitimacy comes at the end: Stills of the real Sedgwick pop up as other Factory-ites reminisce. (Now playing; Click here for venues.) — Melissa Anderson