A Very Nasty Portrait of the Artist
How Factory Girl insults Andy Warhol.
I should be pointing out that Warhol was a great artist and a great filmmaker, that he made paintings and movies the likes of which no one had ever seen before—and so he did, though you'd never know it from Factory Girl. I should be telling you that he was also, and not surprisingly, an exceedingly complicated man, that Edie, for all her winsomeness and beauty, was a suicide looking for an excuse, and that Dylan was such a minor character in that scene that it's bewildering to find him in this movie at all, and preposterous to portray him as Warhol's tormentor. I should be reminding you that the times were, by all accounts, hectic if not hysterical, and that Sedgwick was not the only one who paid the price. Warhol was shot, almost to death, by one of his more unstable hangers-on, but you wouldn't know that from watching the movie, either.
But I want to say something else, instead. The visual arts have traditionally been a refuge for marginal people: queers and misfits, fragile and disobedient people, the flamboyant and the terminally shy, some brilliant people, some shallow people, and quite a few con artists; and Warhol's Factory was open to all of them. There's a great deal more to art than that, of course; there's hard work and scholarship and as much to think about as there is in poetry or novels or philosophy. But many of us first came to the art world because decades earlier Warhol had made it seem like a wonderful place to be, and besides that, a home. So Factory Girl isn't just a bad movie, it's a 90-minute insult to the culture it pretends to be capturing, and what I really want to say—as I would almost never say of anything I see or read or listen to—is that I hated it.
Jim Lewis is the author of three novels, most recently, The King Is Dead.
Still of Guy Pearce as Andy Warhol in Factory Girl copyright the Weinstein Company. All rights reserved. Photograph of Andy Warhol by Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images.