Still from 2005's "Factotum."

men of his temperament and situation can believably be likable — we find little reason to care about anything impacting him or his life. He doesn’t appear to either.

 

In Factotum, a first-rate Matt Dillon stars as Hank Chinaski, a self-styled, aspiring writer with a bad habit of getting in the way of himself. Though he dreams of someday gaining notoriety in his desired profession, Chinaski is a reckless alcoholic who jumps from job to job like a toad plopping from lily pad to lily pad, only each patch of green is covered in razor wire. Most of the time, he loses a meager occupation by drinking on the clock. In other moments, he’s plainly insubordinate, as if trying as hard as he can to avoid financial stability.

 

The film follows his routine and finds various drama in the interruptions of that routine, namely his relationship with fellow barfly Jan (Lili Taylor), his gambling addiction, and even a return back home for a disastrous dinner with his parents. Nothing ever goes well. It’s as if Chinaski were frightened of anything that weren't dysfunctional.

 

How much you take a liking to Factotum depends on how much you can handle grueling character studies or the works of Charles Bukowski, the novelist who wrote five novels and a large number of short stories starring Chinaski. Having not read the material from which Factotum is based, a novel set in post-WWII America and released in 1975, I cannot say how much the 2005 adaptation captures Bukowski’s prose. I can only hope that some reward is to be found on page — its cinematic counterpart is a grueling sit that offers us little in return for depressing us for 90 minutes.

 

Dillon and his co-stars, especially Taylor and Marisa Tomei (as a brief fling) are excellent in roles that require them to be emotionally naked. But Factotum is such a dejected experience I’m not so sure they’re good enough to warrant a viewing. Naturalism is sometimes revitalizing in cinema, but when I go to the movies I’d like to feel something other than intense misery the moment I leave the theater. C

DIRECTED BY

Bent Hamer

 

STARRING

Matt Dillon

Lili Taylor

Marisa Tomei

Fisher Stevens

Didier Flamand

Adrienne Shelly

 

RATED

R

 

RELEASED IN

2005

 

RUNNING TIME

1 Hr., 34 Mins.

Factotum July 28, 2017        

F

actotum (2005) is well-acted, written, and directed, but it is also so relentlessly depressing that that's never enough to excuse our misery. It's a character study that highlights the life of an alcoholic bum who seems driven to sabotage nearly every aspect of his life. And nothing about the feature, besides the convincing handling of the material, makes us eager to see what happens next. So many kitchen-sink dramas make gloom somewhat easier to stomach in part to lovable characters or rousing performances that excuse excessive despair. Factotum is not among those movies. Its protagonist is so detestable — rightfully so, as few