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March 4th, 2007

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11:30 am
I. Things We're Still On The Fence About
  • Promotional literature for colleges that include the word "Discover"
  • An animal grooming parlor called "Hair Of The Dog"
  • A bowling alley that advertises itself as "within striking distance" of the highway
  • The social ramifications of "Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?"
  • Steampunk Star Wars (I teetered at Jabba, but Han and Vader are great and who can't love the phrase "Phlogisticated Aether Torch")
  • Legally Blonde: The Musical (no, wait, just fell off the fence, landed on some ice, ow)
II. We saw FACTORY GIRL on Friday night and I enjoyed the period look-and-feel (the hair and makeup is key; an obvious tell is unintentionally anachronistic modern 'dos disguised as the old stuff. None of that here; Sienna Miller looks like she stepped right out of the pages of Vogue and is going out for drinks with Twiggy.) Some of the acting was damn fine, and I thought Miller did very well with what she was given to say and what her character was supposed to be (As this is a poor little rich girl getting it all and losing it film, Edie is portrayed as Holly Golightly in the first act, Edie Sedgwick Superstar in the second act, and Liza Minnelli Playing Judy Garland in the third.)

I was most impressed by Guy Pearce as Andy Warhol. He even better than I had expected because honestly, it can be so easy to play Warhol poorly. Get your wig, your dark glasses, and then act deadpan-swishy and then go silent for a while. But Pearce does more than that, and I liked that. He plays Warhol as, well, a cold-blooded user of people who knows full well what he's doing, but hides it very well through innocent indifference. And that's what the fellow was; let's not make any bones about it. At one point after their falling-out, Edie desperately approaches Andy asking for the money she's owed for appearing in all of his films. Andy laconically replies "I gave you fifty dollars..." (given a long time ago because she'd called him a genius) "...did you already spend it all?"

There's a scene near the end of the film (actually, it should have been the last scene) where Warhol's being interviewed in '71, and he's just gone and bragged about how wonderful it is to be disaffected by everything. The subject then turns to Edie Sedgwick, and he off-handedly makes some remark about how he hasn't seen her in years. Then the off-screen interviewer says "You do know Edie Sedgwick died last night, don't you?" If not an actual event, it's pretty clunky exposition (and trust me, this film is rife with it) but Pearce gets so much emotion out of silence as the camera uncomfortably zooms in too tight on his face, his eyes registering his feelings as he lets the news sink in. It's a lovely turn, especially as Warhol spends most of FACTORY GIRL behind a camera of his own, asking awkward questions that often make his subjects uncomfortable.

There's some lovely detachment in the relationship between the two; their truly personal, human conversations all happen over the phone. When they talk face-to-face, it's usually artsy banality as the too-cool-for-school Factory crowd is hanging around them. The Factory folks are fun to watch, however, and so are the brief glimpses we get of the Velvet Underground (Renee pointed out the actress playing Nico was perfectly cast, and I agreed.)

The acting was good all around (even Hayden Christensen acts his way out of a paper bag as a Folk Singer Who Looks And Sounds Amazingly Like Bob Dylan But Clearly Isn't Bob Dylan Thanks To Bob Dylan's Lawyers) and they do amiably well with the script they've got. That's the real weakness of the movie, the screenplay. A lot of dialogue is devoted to exposition, and that's okay; it's to be expected in a biopic for audiences who might not really know the full story behind the subject.

It's just that this exposition is often given in some of the clunkiest ways possible, so there's a lot of "Look at this newspaper clipping!" shots and the like. Additionally, every Warhol film shot within the film is slated with a clapboard so we know the title. One film -- Poor Little Rich Girl -- is shown in Paris, where, at the end of the screening, someone makes the announcement "That was Poor Little Rich Girl by Andy Warhol!" as the crowd gives a standing ovation. Ouch. You'd have thought an audience would know what movie it was watching, but maybe this was a Mystery Screening. And they neglected to put any titles at the beginning. Or something.

The Breakfast at Tiffany's parallels are made in full force as well, as Edie clearly states in the beginning she's leaving Radcliffe ("Cambridge Art School") to go to New York City and live the life of Holly Golightly or, rather, Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly. "Have you even read the book?" Not Bob Dylan asks her at one point. "Of course not," she responds, "Audrey Hepburn's not in the book!" (this also encourages us to consider that Bob Dylan would have been the type to be up on his Capote, but hey, he read a lot, didn't he?) The climactic scene in the third act (The Nightmare Descent Into Booze And Pills Before The Redemption) even involves Edie jumping out of a cab and running away. And there's even a cute orange tabby who lives in the Warhol home.

And then there are the Warhol refs dropped -- a cabinet full of Campbell's soup in the Warhol home, a time-lapse 24-hour shot of the Empire State Building (thankfully over in less than 30 seconds, not eight hours) and the like. I rather liked some of that.

The film's been drubbed pretty savagely by those Who Were There; Lou Reed outright loathed and denounced it, and Bob Dylan's lawyers got them to remove Dylan's name from the project entirely. One of their main beefs, besides the portrayal of Dylan as a troubadour prophet with feet of clay (c'mon, he was just a kid back then, he wore the same Profound Artist facade as Warhol) was that Bob felt the film insinuated he drove Edie to excessive drug abuse and the path through which she lost her life.

Two scenes illustrate this: The first is when Edie is forced to choose which self-absorbed artist she wishes to stay with, Warhol or Dylan. She chooses Andy, which she then recollects in voiceover "That was the worst mistake of my entire life." Later, after Warhol acrimoniously snubs her, she decides maybe Bob's not such a bad choice after all -- so off she druggedly goes to rub it in Andy's face; he confronts her with the Expository Newspaper Article that reveals Dylan's gone and married someone else. This drives Edie right into Judy Garland mode which, eventually, lands her in another institution.

I dunno. Doesn't seem like Dylan himself did any of the gefuckery, but maybe he was more upset in his portrayal. Especially that Hayden Christensen, when offering Warhol a joint, has to say "Do you do this, or are you just into that faggy speed?"

Yeah, cringe.

All in all it'll be interesting to Netflix this if only to hear the commentary, if indeed there is any. The design of the film was great, the acting pretty good, but the film had to do so much storytelling that it had a hard time storyshowing instead -- and when it did try to show, it showed through telling. Yeek, ok.

Oh, and Jimmy Fallon is in it and he doesn't play a goofball; he plays a manipulator and he does it very well, though he's the only person in the cast who sticks out -- he looks like Jimmy Fallon playing a character. Even Mena Suvari, forehead and all, is well thrown into her role as Edie's close friend.

Also, for those who choose their movies by body parts, there's a lot of bare breasts and some bathtub nudity and bare buttocks and lots of drawn penises. And a lot of characters who like to say "cock."

(4 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:March 4th, 2007 07:36 pm (UTC)
It's unfair to judge a biopic based on plot, but _Factory Girl_ had me until about midway through Act II. Once Sedgewick was cut off from Warhol, the story transitioned into the standard "spiral toward an early death as drugs destroy everything" story. While true in this case, there's only so many different ways to show that decline and I think I've finally seen enough. There was a time where I would have found the story deep and moving but my interest in the tragic flame-outs has gone down progressively as I've gotten older. I'm more curious about the people who survived the vampires than the ones who got sucked dry. Maybe it's getting toward time for a Lou Reed biopic...

As far as Fallon, I thought he was sort of effective if only because he did stick out so blatantly. He started out looking like a preppy and even later, he still looked out of place in Warhol's crew, the straight-edged square trying to fit in. I didn't think he was portrayed as manipulative as much as he had one piece of currency to sell (Sedgewick's confidences) and he gave it up, rather pathetically, for a place in the Factory. The whole movie is about what people do to try to get a little bit of fame and Fallon's character (who I'm assuming was probably a composite) was definitely on that track.

I suspect we'll never see the original cut of the film, but I'd bet there were deleted scenes that showed Dylan as more a part of Sedgewick's decline; at the very least, I wonder if there was a parallel scene to the one with Warhol where she sought him out only to have him brush her aside.

Sad film, hard to watch, but definitely worth a rental. You sound like you've got some previous knowledge of the history of Warhol; any biographies or books on the subject you'd recommend?
[User Picture]
Date:March 4th, 2007 08:00 pm (UTC)

i'm not spatch...

but i really like the oral biography edie.
[User Picture]
Date:March 4th, 2007 08:06 pm (UTC)
I respect the hell out of Guy Pearce, which is why I'd see this (even though when I first saw the trailer I couldn't recognise him). But I hear it's got problems, as you say. Also I'm not seeing the borderline autism that Warhol's generally agreed to have had; what do you think?
I read this one back in high school, and enjoyed it, but it's been a while.
[User Picture]
Date:March 5th, 2007 04:01 am (UTC)
In Tom Weller's "Culture Made Stupid", the sequel to "Science Made Stupid", at one point there is a playbill for a supposed early "kinemutoscopograph!!" exhibition or something like that. One of the items on the bill is "A country boy becomes involved in a conflict between rival aetheric pilots, and through the exercise of his Magnetic Will is able to destroy a vast aerial ironclad. Contains many amusing clockwork contrivances."

Well, it made me laugh.

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