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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Factory Girl (review)

Celebrity Interrupted

If you’re like most people, you’ve been asking yourself for several years now, “Just who the hell is Sienna Miller, why is she famous, and why must I endure the latest gossip about her?” Here she is attending a premiere! Look, she just launched her new fashion line! Listen, she and Jude Law just broke up– no, wait, they’re together again. Ostensibly, she’s an actress — this is what the publicity machine has been insisting, anyway — and Factory Girl was supposed to be her big proving ground, the film that would justify her hitherto inexplicable celebrity.
We can hope, then, that this means we’ve heard the end of the nonsense about this nonentity, because this is a flimsy ghost of a movie made even more inconsequential by the relentless blandness and unqualified insubstantiality of its “star.” Marketing may have gotten Miller (Casanova, Alfie) this far, but even if the manufacturing of a celebrity results in the momentary theft of the spotlight, eventually the moment comes when its continued glare must be earned, and Miller is unable to do that. She’s not an incompetent performer, but she does not light up the screen like you’d expect from someone of her bizarrely unwarranted reputation. Instead, she barely registers — she’s lightweight in an elemental way. Her utter lack of screen presence is the most monumental thing about her.

Miller is, in fact, exactly the opposite of what Factory Girl needed. It’d be ironic if this were the beginning of the end of Miller’s 15 minutes, because here we have the tale, if the dull and uninspiring one, of Edie Sedgwick, who was muse to Andy Warhol and the gal who held court at the center of his downtown New York art clique for a few brief years in the late 1960s. All indication of what Warhol found so rousing about Sedgwick is missing from what is, alas, a pedestrian biopic about a poor little rich girl who descended, we’re told, from rarefied heights of privilege to land in New York as an art student with stars in her naive eyes and ended up a junkie at the hands of Warhol’s mean and despicable cabal. Sedgwick’s dreams of life as an artist were laid low either by drugs and, ahem, inexplicable fame as the gal on Andy’s arm, or by her own sense of entitlement, which prevented her from doing a lick of work of her own. Either way, it’s a less than sympathetic portrait, and yet never the intriguing and ironic drama that an unflattering portrait can be, either. Director George Hickenlooper doesn’t seem to know how he feels about Sedgwick, asking us simultaneously to excuse Sedgwick as the party responsible for her own downfall while also shoveling modern psychobabble about personal responsibility onto her: the film bookends itself with Edie-in-rehab pabulum that transforms the story into one long and tedious therapy session.

The film may be a total loss for Miller, but the rest of the cast fares much better. Guy Pearce (The Proposition) scares me, he’s so intense, and here, as Andy Warhol, he’s riveting in his offhand disdain for the mundane, for the celebrity he paradoxically courts, for his own art. Hayden Christensen (Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith) shines in a very small and — alas for the potential drama squandered here — undeveloped part as Bob Dylan, who, we’re led to believe, could have saved Edie from herself, if only she’d let him. Illeana Douglas (Ghost World) steals a few juicy moments as fashion designer Diana Vreeland.

But just as none of them can save Sedgwick from herself, so can none of them save Miller from her moment of truth: There’s an ineffable, essential It of charisma and spirit that comes with being an It Girl, and she hasn’t got it.

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MPAA: rated R for pervasive drug use, strong sexual content, nudity and language

viewed at a public multiplex screening

official site | IMDb
  • yana

    I completely disagree with you. Miller has something absolutely unique that I haven’t seen in a great deal of actresses thus far. This review seems utterly one sided and biased against the girl, thanks to the public scrutiny already set upon her.

  • MaryAnn

    Yup, that’s it completely: I’ve got something personal against Miller that is clouding my judgment. You’ve got it in one. Brilliant.

    I must ask, though: How could a critic write a review that was not “one-sided”? Wouldn’t I have to be a multiple personality or something to do that?

  • Tanner

    I’m just curious… what do you have against Ms. Miller… ?
    So many of us that have seen the film and are blown away by her presence and can’t keep our eyes off her…

    so, what’s the deal? what did she ever do to you?
    Whatever it is, I hope your readers will also get your negative slant on her is more about your personal issue than it is about her ability to act…. and act really well!!!

  • A. Guy

    MaryAnn you clearly aren’t a lesbian because part of Sienna’s charm is that she is just so savagely attractive. And it’s not a vapid, runway model kind of beauty. There’s a lively glint in her eye.

    It may take a guy to completely “get” Sienna Miller.

  • Are you guys serious? Here, in perfectly good English, Johanson has explained why Miller’s acting in the film does not impress her, and yet you still wander in, eyes open in aggrieved shock and wonder that she hasn’t regurgitated your precious reaction.

    For goodness’ sake.

  • MaryAnn

    I’m just curious… what do you have against Ms. Miller… ?

    She stole my bologna sandwich when I was in third grade.

  • Danielle

    Yana, Tanner and A. Guy must be the same person, because I find it truly hard to believe that there are three people in this universe who feel that strongly about Sienna Miller’s “talents” as an actress.

  • I do believe Sienna Miller’s ‘talents’ are best revealed when she wears bra and underwear.

    Unless, of course, she’s in one of those women’s mags you buy at the checkout counter, Hello! and all that nonsense. That’s what she’s known for besides Jude Law.

  • A. Guy, I’m also A Guy, and I don’t get the Sienna Miller thing at all. Average looks, no real screen presence, not a particularly good actress, looks like she needs an adult to help her dress. I now eagerly await the sword of “OMG BIYASED SHES ECKSELENT!!!!1111” coming down on my head.

  • A. Guy

    There are legions of actresses that are very, very attractive but don’t have even modest doses of “it”: Julia Ormond, Natasha Henstridge, Claire Forlani… (help me here).

    Ms. Miller has a very solid leg-up on that category. Is she the next Julia Roberts, Sandra Bullock? No. That kind of wattage is rare. I think she has at least the presence of Natalie Portman.

    And remember, in Factory Girl, Warhol “fell” for Edie/Sienna just from looking across the room at her. She’s got wattage to spare to pull that off, and few do.

  • MaryAnn

    Warhol “fell” for Edie/Sienna just from looking across the room at her

    Well, perhaps the director arranged things so that it would appear that Guy Pearce, as Warhol, saw Sienna Miller, as Sedgwick, across a room, and that this was meant to indicate that Warhol fell for Sedgwick, but I, for one, did not buy it. But all you’re saying is that Pearce is a good enough actor to make you believe in him. Believing in Miller, and in WHY Warhol would fall for her, is something else entirely.

  • A. Guy

    Well, actually, what I’m saying has nothing to do with Pearce’s reaction. I’m saying that when as a viewer I put myself in Warhol’s shoes and saw her from across the room, I bought it. I bought that she had something special.

    But to be honest, I probably bought it long before that scene. I may actually have bought it when I first saw the trailer for Layer Cake.

  • MaiGirl

    Okay, we get it, A.Guy. You have a boner for a talentless hack actress. You aren’t the first, and nobody’s mad at you. Simply understand that just because your penis is dazzled by her “wattage” doesn’t mean we have to agree.

    And as much as I liked Layer Cake, her role was all of 10 minutes long, and all she did was take of her clothes and flip her hair a lot. Wait…she may have been chewing gum at the same time. Where’s her Oscar, people?

  • A. Guy

    Geez, MaiGirl. What’s with the hostility? I’m not attacking MaryAnn. I obviously like her reviews a lot or I wouldn’t be here.

    It’s a movie blog; we’re talking about things that don’t really matter (i.e. movie stars) and that are completely subjective. Everything I wrote had a smile behind it.

    You’re like a movie-fan version of a right-wing fundamentalist. Please forgive me treading on one of your passionately held beliefs.

  • MaryAnn

    Okay, cool it, guys. I disagree that movies “don’t really matter,” but we are talking about very subjective stuff like who gives us our jollies, so let’s play nice.

  • appollo

    .. Factory Girl is a dreadful film; with two moments that lift it – two ! in 90 minutes; not bad; Sienna – sorry – but I’ve met her and she is a rich, posh, english tart and a most disinteresting talentless bitch. No I have no reason other than, I met her a few times and have thought ‘whats the fuss…? this is a telnetless no mark..” BUT – the reason – she is being used to sell, and like Kate Moss ( but without the credibility and charisma) she can be used to sell… all about the filthy lucre and talent and art doesnt come into it.. o ye’, her dads dead dead rich, so that always helps to get one to where one wants to get … like, know what I mean?

  • HeJü

    Jesus, so much bile in one article. You don’t like Sienna Miller, we get it.
    I love your reviews and I’ve been reading them for quite some time now, but every once in a while one comes along that just baffles me, and this one certainly qualifies.
    The movie was so bad and tedious, there are lots of reasons it failed. Focussing this hard on bashing Miller while even praising Hayden Christensen, to me just sounds like spite.

  • MaryAnn

    Sure, that’s gotta be what it is: spite. Perhaps you’d care to elaborate on that. Seriously: Why would I be spiteful toward one actor I don’t like and yet praise — for some unknown reason — another actor you secretly seem to believe I don’t like, either?

    Also, I’d love to hear you explain how an actor who is being relied upon to carry the entire film should be measured on the same scale as another actor whose appearance amounts to a cameo.

    I’m not being sarcastic. I really would like to hear why you feel it necessary to characterize my review as mere “bile.”

  • Jurgan

    Maryann: It’s very simple. If people disagree with you, don’t waste time on the substance of their arguments. Simply accuse them of bias. If you convince people that a source is badly biased, you can then convince them to dismiss the arguments from that source without thinking. It’s the Bill O’Reilly school of debate.

  • HeJü

    Well, the first paragraph starts with “Sienna Miller doesn’t deserve to be famous, she just had the right boyfriend” and this continues all through the review. I had just watched the film prior to reading this and found Miller to be by far the least of its problems, so this magnified my incomprehension (if that’s a word) regarding your strong focus on her shortcomings.
    Maybe I read less about what the stars and starlets do in their private time, so I don’t get an allergic reaction to certain faces (you can’t always evade it on the internet, but I expect it’s a different thing in a city like New York), so for me Sienna Miller is more the pretty girl from Alfie and Casanova than Jude Law’s ex.
    If you had written that her acting was bad, I wouldn’t have said anything, but all this negativity following that first paragraph just seemed to me like a very personal attack. Maybe it was a knee jerk reaction to her getting another (in your opinion) undeserved lead, just like my comment was a knee jerk reaction to the (in my opinion) overly harsh criticism.

  • MaryAnn

    If you had written that her acting was bad

    Funny, I thought that was the gist of, you know, the entire review.

  • dlana

    I’ve just watched it and wanted to see what critics generally say abt the film and Miller. Admittedly, the role of Edie could have been better, the swaying english/american wannabe accent did throw me off – that said, I think Miller did give it her BEST BEST shot – she’s gorgeous, charming and young – so what if she’s not the fab actress the world expects her to be? I’m sure she will improve over time – just like Kate Hudson. Give her some time and chance.

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