If we are to believe the portrayal of radical feminist Valerie Solanas in "I Shot Andy Warhol," then, despite her claims to the contrary, she had no one but herself to blame for her predicament.
Solanas, who wrote "The SCUM Manifesto," shot and nearly killed Andy Warhol in 1968, claiming that he "had too much control over my life." The irony is, at least according to "I Shot Andy Warhol," that Solanas actually allowed herself to be manipulated by men, whom she considered a "biological accident."
In the film, Lili Taylor plays Solanas as a pushy panhandler who supplemented her meager earnings by renting herself out as a "scintillating coversationalist," or, when times were really hard, as a prostitute. Living on New York's mean streets, she is looking for just enough money to publish her manifesto, named for her own one-woman organization, the Society for Cutting Up Men.
That all changes when she becomes acquainted with Candy Darling (Stephen Dorff), a cross-dresser with access to the late '60s New York art scene, in particular, Andy Warhol's "Factory." After meeting Warhol (Jared Harris) in his tin-foil-wrapped studio, Solanas is convinced that he should produce her scatological play, "Up Your (bleep!)."
At the same time, Solanas is mulling over an offer from Maurice Girodias (Luthaire Bluteau), a smooth-talking pornographer who claims to have published William S. Burroughs' "Naked Lunch" and wants her to write novels.
But Warhol, who lets her get screen time in his film "I, a Man," eventually loses interest because of her aggressive nature, while the contract she signs with Girodias decidedly favors the publisher. Solanas, who, by this point, is hanging out with revolutionaries, gets a gun and swears vengeance on both men.
First-time director Mary Harron, who also co-wrote the screenplay, wisely adds biographical material that makes Solanas a more sympathetic character (which implies that sexual molestation at a young age may have influenced her to become a lesbian and may have been largely responsible for her cynicism toward men).
Harron cuts between a documentary style and black-and-white re-enactments of Taylor reading from "The SCUM Manifesto," which are at times infuriating and sometimes fascinating. However, she does let the one party sequence at the Factory go on forever, and the "where are they now?" ending is a total cliche.
Fortunately, Taylor's performance is stunning and makes up for any weak points. If Solanas, who died in 1989, was even half as interesting and funny as she is portrayed, she would have made a very good topical comedienne.
Harris, the son of actor Richard Harris, is appropriately prissy and detached as Warhol, while Dorff, whose previous film performances have been uneven, is a hoot as Solanas' transvestite roommate. Others effectively playing Factory artists include Donovan Leitch (as Gerard Malanga), Tahnee Welch (Viva) and New York art-rockers Yo La Tengo (as the Velvet Underground).
"I Shot Andy Warhol" is unrated, but would certainly receive at least an R for considerable profanity, some nudity, sex including a needlessly explicit scene and some vulgar humor.