Rated NR

An adaptation of Charles Bukowski’s autobiographical novel of the same name, Factotum has all the failings of the book it’s based on. The dialogue is weird and compelling, but there’s no story here, and there’s way too much filler. Matt Dillon does a surprisingly decent job as Henry Chinaski, Bukowski’s literary stand-in who would rather drink and write than work the series of menial jobs that keep him in booze. Also shockingly good is Lili Taylor—shocking, because she’s so frequently horrible. Taylor plays Chinaski’s love interest, and director Bent Hamer makes some wise choices in her look. Most notably: All the characters appear to have horrible skin. Bruised legs and pockmarked faces help set the scene, but Hamer makes a horrible error in the sets. The book is set in the ’40s, and much of the set and costumes mark this. But because the film is shot in the present day, there are also computers and skyscrapers. The mix seemed poorly considered and kept drawing me out of the film. The other big problem is the lack of story and the long pauses between delicious bits of dialogue. With some editing, a sense of purpose and some more careful art direction, Factotum could have made excellent use of its fine script and acting, but as it stands, it’s curiously dull, if occasionally funny.

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