Directed by Bent Hamer, starring Matt Dillon, Lili Taylor and Marisa Tomei.
The writer Charles Bukowski said that he was a graduate of three universities: booze, women and the track. While Norwegian director Bent Hamer's adaptation of Bukowski's 'Factotum' offers the prospectus for each one, it won't make many new arrivals go out and buy the books.
Dillon plays Bukowski's literary alter-ego Henry Chinaski, a hard-living, aspiring author who stumbles from dead end job to dead end job in between horrific hangovers and submitting short stories to various publications. There are occasional intermissions in Chinaski's solitude when he hooks up with like-minded souls - Jan (Taylor) and the once beautiful Laura (Tomei) - but the only thing that lasts is the writing.
Even bearded and carrying a few extra pounds, Dillon is still too handsome for the lead role. But that's not what's wrong here - his performance is excellent - the real problem is that 'Factotum's series of vignettes just don't work as a film. The dialogue is authentic and there's no glamming up of the bottom of the barrel, but the film just drifts along too much to really engage. What works in a book doesn't necessarily translate to the screen and 'Factotum' leaves you wanting more of a shamefully underused Tomei and less of dull scenes which are just about salvaged by Dillon's presence.
Hamer's film also suffers because there's another one to compare it to: Barbet Schroeder's Mickey Rourke-starring 'Barfly' from 1987. While that film played up the slapstick and the humour, it had a more attention-grabbing script and was ultimately more memorable. Hamer's take is a character study, but the best place to study the character is the books – this film is for hardcore Bukowski and Dillon fans only.