Unless you are a great fan of Charles Bukowski and his writings,
FACTOTUM will only hold moderate appeal. Adapted from several works
by the author, it tells the story of Henry Chinanski (Matt Dillon), an
aspiring author who holds a series of low paying jobs in order to finance
his life of booze and writing. As the film opens, he is working delivering ice.
On his first delivery of the day, he stops to have a drink (or three). Caught by
his boss, Chinanski is fired. This pretty much establishes the pattern of his
life. He meanders from job to job, apartment to apartment, woman to woman,
all the while scribbling and sending off his stories to the Black Sparrow Press.
The film is a veiled biopic of Bukowski, who wrote of a similar liquor-soaked
life in
BARFLY.

Adapted by Jim Stark and Bent Hamer, who also directed,
FACTOTUM
is only interesting in that it provides a nice acting showcase for its leads.
Fresh off his Oscar nomination for
CRASH, Matt Dillon does some of his
best screen work as the Bukowski stand-in. He's handsome enough to
be believable as a ladies' man, successfully plays a drinker, and makes
the scenes of the character writing his stories convincing. After the debacle
of
YOU, ME AND DUPREE which wasted his comedic gifts, it's refreshing to
see this actor undertake a meaty role and deliver on it. He is abetted by
the equally gifted Lili Taylor, cast as the one woman with whom Hank has
the longest relationship. Like Dillon, the actress tears into the role and
fashions a full-bodied portrayal. Offering excellent support in a small role
is Oscar winner Marisa Tomei as a woman Hank dabbles with, and Fisher
Stevens as a co-worker who shares a love of gambling.

For me, one of the major problems of the film was the director's
seemingly deliberate choice of not placing the story in any particular time
frame. The cars, some furnishing and the fact that Hank can easily rent rooms
makes the film seem to be set in the 1940s or 50s. But then there are
contemporary touches that are jarring: a computer on the desk of a potential
employer, for instance. I'm not sure exactly what Hamer was going for, but
it pulled me out of the movie.
FACTOTUM isn't for everyone, but anyone who
wants to see strong performances from gifted actors may want to check it out.

                Rating:                 C +
                MPAA Rating:        None
                Running time:       94 mins.


                        Viewed at the Broadway Screening Room
Factotum
©  2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.