Long before he became the host of the Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon was everyone’s idiot boyfriend!
Long before he became the host of the Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon was everyone’s idiot boyfriend!
Oh God. Factory Girl.
Released in 2006, Factory Girl was a biopic about Edie Sedgwick, the tragic model/actress/artist who was briefly both Andy Warhol’s muse and one of the most famous women in America. Before I talk too much about this film, I should probably admit that I’m probably the worst possible person to review a movie about Edie Sedgwick.
Allow me to repost something that I wrote when I reviewed Edie’s final film, Ciao Manhattan:
“In the late 60s, Edie Sedgwick was a model who was briefly the beautiful face of the underground. Vogue called her a “youthquaker.” She made films with Andy Warhol, she dated the rich and the famous and for a brief time, she was one of the most famous women in America. But a childhood full of tragedy and abuse had left Edie fragile and unprepared to deal with the pressures of being famous. She was fed drugs by those who claimed to care about her, she had numerous mental breakdowns, and, when she was at her most vulnerable, she was pushed away and rejected by the same people who had loved her when she was on top of the world. Edie died because, when she asked for help, nobody was willing to listen.
I guess I should explain something. I don’t believe in reincarnation but if I did, I would swear that I was Edie Sedwick in a past life. Of all the great icons of the past, she, Clara Bow, andVictoria Woodhull are the ones to whom I feel the closest connection. (Edie is the reason why, for the longest time, I assumed I would die when I was 28. But now I’m 29, so lucky me.)”
(Incidentally, I wrote that two years ago and I’m still alive so, once again, lucky me.)
Anyway, my point is that I’m always going to be a hundred times more critical of a film about Edie Sedgwick as I would be about any other film. If you’re already guessing that I didn’t particularly care for Factory Girl, you’re right. However, there are some people whose opinions I respect and some of them love this film.
Anyway, Factory Girl is a biopic that’s structured so conventionally that it even opens with Edie (played by Sienna Miller) narrating her story to an unseen interviewer. I can count on one hand the number of successful biopics that have featured someone telling the story of their life to an unseen interviewer. It’s a conventional and kind of boring technique. Anyway, the film follows all of the expected beats. Edie arrives in New York. Edie is spotted by Andy (Guy Pearce). Edie makes films with Warhol. Her famous dance in Vinyl is recreated. Edie becomes Andy’s platonic girlfriend but then, she meets and falls in love with Bob Dylan…
Oh, sorry. He’s not actually Bob Dylan. According to the credits, his name is Folksinger. He says Bob Dylan type stuff. He rides around on a motorcycle. He carries a harmonica. Oh, and he’s played by Hayden Christensen.
See, the first half of Factory Girl is actually not bad. Sienna Miller gives a pretty good performance as Edie, even if she never comes close to capturing Edie’s unforced charisma. Despite being several years too old, Guy Pearce is also credible as Andy Warhol. The film itself is full of crazy 60s clichés but, even so, that’s not always a terrible thing. Some of those 60s clichés are a lot of fun, if they’re presented with a little imagination.
But then Hayden Christensen shows up as Bob Dylan and the film loses whatever credibility it may have had. Hayden, who gave his best performance when he played a soulless and largely empty-headed sociopath in Shattered Glass, is totally miscast as a musician who once said that if people really understood what his songs were about, he would have been thrown in jail. The film attempts to portray Dylan and Warhol as two men fighting for Edie’s soul but Christensen is so outacted by Guy Pearce that it’s never really much of a competition. Even though the film makes a good case that Edie’s relationship with Andy was ultimately self-destructive, Guy Pearce is still preferable to Hayden Christensen trying to imitate Dylan’s distinctive mumble.
Anyway, Factory Girl doesn’t really work. Beyond the odd casting of Hayden Christensen, Factory Girl is too conventionally structured. In its portrayal of the Factory and life in 1960s New York, the film never seems to establish a life beyond all of the familiar clichés. (Before anyone accuses me of contradicting myself, remember that I said that the old 60s clichés are fun if they’re presented with a little imagination. That’s a big if.) At no point, while watching the film, did I feel as if I had been transported back to the past. If you want to learn about Edie Sedgwick, your best option is to try to track down her Warhol films.
Have you heard of Conner4Real?
If you haven’t, you’re probably just old or else you don’t keep up with what’s happening in the world of popular music. His real name is Conner Friel and he used to be a member of the Style Boyz. Of course, the Style Boyz eventually broke up. Kid Brain became a farmer. Kid Contact became a DJ. And Kid Conner — well, he became Conner4Real and he became a bigger star as a solo artist than he ever was as a Style Boy. His debut album, Thriller, Also, broke records.
But the follow-up, Connquest … well, Connquest wasn’t quite as acclaimed. In fact, it was hated by just about everyone. This is despite featuring classic songs like:
Finest Girl (Bin Laden Song)
and Equal Rights (featuring P!nk).
Fortunately, when Conner4Real was facing his greatest existential crisis, a film crew was present to record his struggle. For those of us who were fascinated by the career of Conner4Real, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is a chance to see how Conner dealt with everything from his terminally ill pet turtle to the elaborate marriage proposal ceremony that led to Seal being attacked by wild wolves. We would have gotten to see Conner and his manager defeat a swarm of mutant bees but, unfortunately, that happened right after the only time that Conner’s manager asked the film crew to stop filming.
Oh well, these things happen.
So, as you should have guessed from all that, Popstar is not a serious film. It’s a mockumentary, with the emphasis on mock. It was also one of the funniest films of 2016, a spot-on parody of the silliness and pretensions of fame. Conner is a combination of Justin Bieber and Macklemore at their shallowest, a well-meaning but thoroughly empty-headed singer. In fact, if Conner was played by anyone other than Andy Samberg, he would be so annoying that the film would run the risk of being unwatchable.
But fortunately, Conner is played by Andy Samberg. It’s hard to think of anyone who plays dumb with quite the same panache as Andy Samberg does. There are plenty of lines in Popstar that shouldn’t work but they do, specifically because they’re being delivered by Samberg. He brings just the right amount of sweetly sincere stupidity to the role. Almost despite yourself, you find yourself hoping that things will work out for Conner and the other Style Boyz. Conner may not deserve to be as big a star as he is but it was obviously going to happen to some idiot so why not a sincere one?
Samberg is not the only funny person in Popstar. The movie is full of funny people, from Sarah Silverman to Bill Hader to the always underrated Tim Meadows. It’s also full of celebrity cameos and I have to admit that I usually tend to cringe when I see too many people playing themselves. But in Popstar, it works. One need only rewatch something like Zoolander 2 to see how well Popstar pulls off its celebrity cameos.
Sadly, as funny as Popstar was, it was also one of the biggest bombs of 2016. (The trailer, it must be said, did not do the film justice.) However, I expect that it will soon develop a strong cult following. In a few years, we’ll get a sequel. It probably won’t be as as good.
Oh well. These things happen.
One or more of the films reviewed below will appear on my list of the 16 Worst Films of 2015! Can you guess which one(s)?
Get Hard (dir by Etan Cohen)
Will Ferrell is funny and Kevin Hart is funny and you would think that putting them together in one movie would be especially funny but … nope. Get Hard, which I watched on HBO a few weeks ago, is incredibly not funny. Ferrell plays a hedge fund manager who is convicted of fraud and embezzlement and it’s a sign of how haphazard this film is that I was never really sure whether he was supposed to be guilty or not. Anyway, Ferrell is terrified of going to prison but fortunately, he runs into Kevin Hart. Hart is playing the owner of a car wash here, a mild-mannered family man who simply wants to be able to afford to send his daughter to a good school. However, Ferrell assumes that, since Hart is black, Hart must be an ex-con.
So, Ferrell hires Hart to teach him how to survive in prison and Hart agrees. And, to be honest, this is not a terrible idea for an edgy satire but the film pulls it punches and never really exposes or challenges the racism that led to Ferrell hiring Hart in the first place. Instead, it’s more interested in making homophobic jokes about prison rape (there’s a particularly long and unpleasant scene where Ferrell attempts to learn how to give a blow job that feels like it was lifted from a deservedly forgotten 90s film) and eventually, it devolves into a painfully predictable action film.
Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 (dir by Andy Fickman)
I know what someone out there is saying.
“YOU’VE NEVER EVEN SEEN THE FIRST PAUL BLART: MALL COP!!! WHO THE HELL ARE YOU TO REVIEW THE SEQUEL!?”
Well, listen — it’s true. I’ve never seen the first film and the only reason I watched the second one (on HBO at a friend’s house, which means that it literally cost me nothing) was because I had heard how terrible it was and I figured that I should see it before making out my list of the worst films of the year. But, even with that in mind, I think I can still give this film a fair review.
(At the very least, I’ll try. Dammit, I’ll try.)
Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 is one of those films that is so forgettable that you forget about it while you’re watching. Kevin James plays Paul Blart, a mall security guard who goes to Las Vegas for a security guard convention and ends up getting involved in thwarting a big heist. It’s a comedy, though I can’t think of a single time I laughed. Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 was not quite the abomination that I had been led to expect. It was, in no way, comparable to Birdemic, April Rain, or Man of Steel. Instead, it was just an incredibly empty and soulless film. It was a zombie movie that existed only to eat money.
One thing that is frustrating about a film like Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 is that Kevin James seems like he could actually survive appearing in a good film, if he could just get a chance to make one. He’s likable and he’s got an everyman quality about him. But, for now, he seems to be trapped in films where he either plays Paul Blart or he’s surrounded by talking animals.
Pixels (dir by Chris Columbus)
Speaking of Kevin James, he’s also in Pixels! He plays William Cooper. When he was a kid, he was obsessed with playing video games. Now that he’s an adult, he’s the President of the United States! And he still keeps in contact with his best friend from childhood, Sam. Sam, needless to say, will never be President. When Sam was a kid, he was traumatized when he lost a national video game championship. Now that he’s an adult, he installs home-theater systems and he’s played by Adam Sandler…
When Earth is invaded, it turns out that the aliens are under the impression that video games are real! So, they recreate a bunch of classic video game characters and send them off to do havoc. Who better to stop them than the President and Sam? And who better to help than a nerdy conspiracy theorist (Josh Gad) and Eddie Planet (Peter Dinklage), the same guy who cheated in order to defeat Sam at the video game championship….
If you’re thinking that sounds like way too much plot for a silly comedy about video games coming to life, you’re right. Pixels has some cute moments (though, based on the comments and occasional laughter of the middle-aged people in the theater around me, I get the feeling that a lot of the film’s video game-themed humor was a bit too “before my time” for me to fully appreciate) but oh my God, it was such an unnecessarily busy movie. The idea behind Pixels had some potential but the film refused to take advantage of it.
I’ve said this before and I always get some strange looks but I honestly do think that — if he would actually break out of his comfort zone and stop doing movies that mostly seem to be about finding an excuse to hang out with his friends — Adam Sandler could be an acceptable dramatic actor. Check out his work in Punch-Drunk Love, Funny People, Reign Over Me, Spanglish, and even the first half of The Cobbler. (Tarantino even wrote the role of Donny Donowitz in Inglourious Basterds with Sandler in mind.) The fact that Sandler could be doing good work makes his continual bad work all the more frustrating and annoying.
The Wedding Ringer (dir by Jeremy Garelick)
And speaking of Josh Gad…he’s also in The Wedding Ringer! For that matter, so is Kevin Hart. Hart plays a guy who, for a sizable fee, will pretend to the lifelong best friend (and best man) for grooms who do not have enough real friends to fill out a wedding party. Hart refuses to get emotionally involved with his clients but that all changes when, despite himself, he becomes friends with Josh Gad, who is on the verge of getting married to Kaley Cuoco.
The Wedding Ringer got terrible reviews but it also was very popular with audiences and I imagine a lot of that had to do with the relationship between Hart and Gad. Both of them give very sincere performances that elevate some otherwise unpromising material. The Wedding Ringer wasn’t good (it’s predictable, it’s portrayal of Kaley Cuoco’s character verges on misogynistic) but, at the same time, it wasn’t as bad as it was made out to be. In the end, it was pretty much a typical January film.
Which of these four films will make my list of the worst 16 films of 2015? The answer shall be revealed soon!