Starring Matt Dillon, Lili Taylor, Marisa Tomei, Dider Flamand, Fisher Stevens, Adrienne Shelley, Karen Young, Tom Lyons, Dean Brewington, James Cada, James Michael Detmar, Kurt Schweikhardt, James Noah, Michael Egan, Terry Hampleman, Emily ‘Sophia Simone’ Hynnek, Tony Papenfuss, Lana Schwab and Sally Wingert.
Screenplay by Bent Hamer and Jim Stark.
Directed by Bent Hamer.
Distributed by IFC Films. 94 minutes. Rated R.
Charles Bukowski was a poet-laureate of the downtrodden, a bard of the barflies, a minstrel with a numbing series of dead-end jobs. Bukowski’s words brought beauty and nobility to the hardships of the forgotten.
However, his work has only met with limited success when translated to film. The German film Crazy Love was underrated and mostly unseen. The 1987 film Barfly (which is the only film in which the late writer actually wrote the screenplay) started with the pitch-perfect casting of Mickey Rourke as the writer – but otherwise was a bit of a dull disappointment.
In the new film Factotum, Matt Dillon is also a perfect choice of an actor to play Bukowski (through his alter-ego of Hank Chinaski.) Dillon may be a bit too traditionally handsome for the role, (Bukowski was a pock-marked, drink-bloated bear of a man) but as an actor he can portray downtrodden disinterest and booze-soaked desperation with realism and subtlety.
Despite this, Factotum – while an interesting look at a lifestyle totally devoid of hope or anything but the basest of desires – reminds us why Bukowski does not really translate to film.
The film is essentially an hour and a half of a smart-but-completely-unmotivated man: a) taking on menial jobs and getting fired from them, b) having sex with and then arguing with two similarly damaged women (Lili Taylor and Marisa Tomei), c) getting into fist fights, d) trying to scam some money, e) acknowledging that he really only wants to get drunk to the square people of the world, f) explaining he is a writer to disbelieving people and then g) ending up in an unending series of bar stools staring at a glass.
The dialogue and rhythms of the film have an undeniable eccentric uniqueness. Some of the narration is gorgeously street-poetic.
Problem is, watching Factotum, you can’t help but think it would all be more interesting on the page than on the screen. (12/06)
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2006 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: December 24, 2006.