A fawn in chandelier earrings, Edie Sedgwick loped into Manhattan in 1965 and caused a youthquake.
Her silver miniskirts and leopard-skin pillbox hats created fashion. Her saucy beauty and personal electricity inspired artist Andy Warhol and troubadour Bob Dylan.
The platinum prince of pop art christened Sedgwick a "superstar" and featured her in underground movies such as Beauty #2. Since 1966, there have been rumors that the balladeer alluded to her on several tracks of Blonde on Blonde, in particular the songs "Just Like a Woman," "Like a Rolling Stone" and (natch) "Leopard-Skin Pillbox Hat."
More meteor than star, the subject of Factory Girl streaked through the 1965 skies on a diet of amphetamines and vodka, burning out by early 1966, when her Mod Holly Golightly look was appropriated by Twiggy. Sedgwick trailed into the endless night of obscurity and eventual barbiturate overdose.
Cautionary tale? Fashion show? Love story? Excuse for groovy soundtrack? George Hickenlooper's Factory Girl is a little of each, but not enough of any to make a satisfying film story. His film is propelled less by its narrative than by the wave of current fascination with '60s fashion and music.
Sensationally riding that wave is Sienna Miller, who nails Sedgwick's stardust smile, ladder legs and tobacco-cured throatiness. Miller shines as the '60s It Girl, but the depth of feeling she brings to the part serves only to highlight how shallow and impressionistic the screenplay is.
Ever since the Sedgwick-starring underground film Ciao! Manhattan was released posthumously in 1973, Sedgwick has become an emblematic figure of the '60s, one who married high and low, glitter with gutter.
The androgynous waif was the daughter of one of America's first families, "the Plymouth Rock Princess," a free-spending and emotionally troubled heiress who made tabloid headlines as the socialite who befriended Warhol, son of Polish immigrants.
But she was also an artist in her own right, one who for reasons unexplored in the screenplay by the improbably named Captain Mauzner gravitated to the role of muse.
If you believe Factory Girl (which takes its name from Warhol's "factory," the studio and clubhouse where he made his art and his movies), Sedgwick's importance is as a plaything caught in a tug of war between the asexual Warhol (Guy Pearce) and the heterosexual Dylan (Hayden Christiansen). The musician is called The Musician here because Dylan's representatives threatened to sue the production.
Sedgwick's relationship with the real-life artist was emotional; unknown is whether she had any relationship with Dylan, though she was involved with his close friend Bobby Neuwirth.
Lost in the movie's trumped-up love triangle with Sedgwick as the hypotenuse between the supposedly superficial Warhol and the supposedly profound Dylan is a more compelling story. Why would a troubled beauty self-medicate with celebrity and amphetamines?
For Hickenlooper and Mauzner, Sedgwick is more interesting for whom she slept with than who she was. Their movie may indict Warhol for exploiting Sedgwick, but they're just as guilty.
Produced by Holly Wiersma, Aaron Richard Golub, Malcolm Petal, Kimberly C. Anderson and Morris Bart, directed by George Hickenlooper, written by Captain Mauzner, photography by Michael Grady, music by Edward Shearmur, distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
Running time: 1 hour, 30 mins.
Edie Sedgwick. . . Sienna Miller
Andy Warhol. . . Guy Pearce
The Musician. . . Hayden Christiansen
Chuck Wein. . . Jimmy Fallon
Diana Vreeland. . . Illeana Douglas
Parent's guide: R (nudity, sex, drugs, profanity)
Playing at: Ritz East and Ritz Sixteen/NJ