Factotum (A Man Who Performs Many Jobs)
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Bent Hamer
scr Bent Hamer, Jim Stark
with Matt Dillon, Lili Taylor, Marisa Tomei, Fisher Stevens, Didier Flamand, Adrienne Shelly, Karen Young, Tony Lyons, Matthew Feeney, Jim Brockhohn, Jim Westcott, Chris Carlson
release UK 18.Nov.05,
US 18.Aug.06
05/US 1h34

One for the road: Tomei and Dillon

dillon taylor tomei


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Factotum As this film is based on the writings of Charles Bukowski, we know it's going to be a wallow in seedy drunkenness. But this feels like an arthouse movie version of seediness--a bit more muted, engaging and beautiful than real life.

Henry Chinaski (Dillon) does lots of small jobs, because he keeps getting sacked for drinking while he should be working. Delivering ice, driving a cab, working in a pickle factory, manning a bicycle warehouse, sorting brake shoes, cleaning statues--but all Henry wants to do is write. And drink. And until he gets something published he has to pay the bills. Or maybe not. Along the way, he has quirky relationships with two women: a flaky sex-fiend (Taylor) and a barfly vamp (Tomei).

More a collection of incidents and anecdotes than an actual narrative feature, the film has an ambling structure that nicely echoes its characters. Henry is focused on both working as a writer and drinking himself into oblivion, and one is much easier to accomplish. Norwegian filmmaker Hamer puts this on the screen with artful, comical restraint; it's deliberately and beautifully framed and edited with bone-dry wit (see also his first film, Kitchen Stories). This gives the film an offhanded, scruffy charm that keeps us engaged with these lowlife characters.

And that's important, since there's not much for the actors to do. These people live in alcoholic stupor with moments of sparky attitude. Dillon gives Henry a hangdog likeability even though he's his own worst enemy--drinking, smoking, gambling, womanising and blaming everyone for his woes. It's not a terribly complex performance (see Nicolas Cage in Leaving Las Vegas for that), but it does capture Henry's inner drive clouded by self-absorption and self-destruction.

The supporting cast is very strong, and Taylor especially shines in several terrific scenes. The best is the hilarious moment when she and Dillon wake up in their clothes, hungover and sick, then immediately light a cigarette, open a beer and ask each other, "How do you feel?" This, rather than Henry's dream of literary acclaim, is the heart of the matter.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality, violence 25.Aug.05

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2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall