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By Joe Lozito
The word "Factotum", a subtitle tells us, means "a man who performs many jobs". And Henry Chinaski, Mr. Bukowski's well-known alter ego, more than lives up to that moniker. Fired from countless jobs - sometimes after less than one day - Chinaski is able to support his girlfriend Jan and his equally demanding liquor habit by playing the horses. At the same time, Chinaski struggles to keep up with his one true passion: writing. The booze, however, constantly gets the best of him, sabotaging anything that even comes close to success.
It's not easy to sustain a film about an aimless addict; "Factotum" is a surprisingly long 94 minutes. Terry Gilliam had a similarly difficult time with "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas". But Mr. Gilliam had Johnny Depp. As Chinaski, Mr. Dillon - unsuccessfully trying to scruffy himself up behind a beard - has a difficult time tapping into the pain and passion that drive an addict. And, despite a few outbursts, Mr. Dillon rarely varies from the same monotone line readings. It's easy to see what attracted the actor to the role; Chinaski is a classic Bukowski creation - alcoholic, self-destructive and at the same time endearing.
More interesting are the women in Chinaski's life: Lily Taylor gives a fine, fearless performance as Jan. Though she is as destructive as Chinaski, there's a fire in Ms. Taylor's performance that makes you think she might have a chance. It's this kind of spark that's missing from Mr. Dillon's portrayal. Marisa Tomei is also surprisingly good as Laura, turning up a heretofore unseen sultriness.
"Factotum" is an admirable attempt to bring Mr. Bukowski's writing to the screen. There are moments that work - like a particularly ugly, hung-over morning in Henry and Jan's apartment - but the film plays more like a series of vignettes than a complete story. Like its lead character, "Factotum" is full of unrealized potential. As you watch it drift aimlessly, you just want it to buckle down and do something constructive - though somehow you know that's not going to happen.
What did you think?
|Summary||Admirable but lethargic attempt to bring the Charles Bukowski novel to the screen.|
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