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Review #224 of 365
Film: Factotum (2006) [R] 94 minutes
WIP™ Scale: $9.50
Where Viewed: Starz FilmCenter at the Tivoli, Denver, CO / DFS Advanced Screening
When 1st Seen: 23 August 2006
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Soundtrack: Download the soundtrack from Kristin Asbjornsen - Factotum (Music from the Motion Picture) now

Click for 'Review Lite' [a 150-word or less review of this film]
fac•to•tum [fak-toh-tuhm]
1. a person, as a handyman or servant, employed to do all kinds of work around the house.
2. any employee or official having many different responsibilities.
"factotum." Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.0.1). Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006. 24 Aug. 2006.

Obviously, novelist, Charles Bukowski, did not make up the word. I was wondering though, since it was the Dictionary.com word of the day on 18 July 2000, if he was sitting there looking at the screen and saw the word and thought, "That would be a great title for a book, what does it mean?" But, no, the book was published in June of 1975 by Black Sparrow Books. That would be a funny idea though. Today's word, just in case your are wondering, is "denizen". Ironically, that word also applies somewhat to Factotum's main character, Henry Chinaski (Matt Dillon). One could say, Henry is a denizen of the story for he more than just tells it he inhabits it.

"…dreadful film…story starts off badly and goes nowhere slowly."
Getting a few things straight, the highly depressing film is co-written and directed by Norwegian film director Bent Hamer based on Charles Bukowski's novel of the same name. It stars a cast, all of whom are people who look their best in black and white films: Matt Dillon, Lili Taylor, and Marisa Tomei, because these three are very fair-skinned, dark-haired people. This suits the film, which may as well have been shot in black and white to further establish the dreary, washed out, hollow shell of an existence of Henry Chinaski, so well. Next, I have always been a very big Matt Dillon fan, and I was thrilled to see his career get a major comeback in last year's Oscar-winning Crash. I thought he was miscast in You, Me and Dupree, however, where he did not do so well. You want comedy? You do not cast a guy who sill looks like a black-and-white movie matinee idol with a James Dean jaw and coif. You want a moody, down-on-his-luck-for-life, alcoholic, unemployable, short story-writer, absolutely, you cast Matt Dillon. If we've been looking for an heir for Jack Nicholson, people, I think he's been found. There are times when, during Factotum, if you close your eyes, you can hear the legendary Mr. Nicholson's cadence in Mr. Dillon's vocal pattern. He has the right stuff, and he can be a brilliant actor. I don't think that acting comes as naturally to him as some people. I think he actually has to work at it. And this is part of the magic of what he does when he's on screen, and he's done it ever since his very early days of Tex and The Outsiders. He seems to nod, almost unconsciously, to the camera as if to ask, "Was that okay? I can do it again." Encased in these glances within deep, soulful, dark eyes is a wonderful vulnerability emoting from a guy who looks like he could beat the crap out of you if he wanted to. He looks, still to this day, like the bad boy from the other side of the tracks that your parents would not let your younger sister date, and you catch her but let her continue to share an ice cream soda with regardless of their orders to you to look after her because you know, deep down, there is something good in him and something relevant, important, and worthy of her, if only she could unlock it or he would let his guard down.

"Matt Dillon's performance is nearly worth enduring the film…but the story and the movie simply fail to deliver."
So, Matt Dillon is not the problem with this dreadful film. No, he's excellent. The problem is not the directing, because the direction seems to work as well. The problem, ultimately, is with the story itself. The story starts off badly and goes nowhere slowly. The 94-minute running time will seem close to eternity, and by the end, you will likely be scratching your head wondering why? Why did Mr. Hamer feel this movie needed to be made? What about the life of the character, Henry Chinaski, spoke to him and made him think this would make a good movie? I don't require that movies have a happy ending. All I require is that they have an ending that works and a main character that shows some growth. Henry Chinaski starts off as a factotum in Minneapolis writing short stories on the side each week for submission to magazines without success, and he ends up as a factotum in Minneapolis who finally gets a story published however, the boarding house he used to live in several evictions and many odd jobs later receives the letter and has no way to contact him to share the good news. And so goes the meandering, pointless, empty existence of Henry. The worst part is, as you sit through the film, you keep thinking, "there must be a purpose to all this. I'm just not seeing it." Sorry to disappoint, but no matter how many times you look at your watch, the film is not suddenly going to go faster nor will there be a pot of gold at the end. Matt Dillon's performance is nearly worth enduring the film, certainly it's a better vehicle for his considerable talents than was You, Me & Dupree. I'm still waiting, however, for his The Shining so we can see what he can really do. A lot of preliminary buzz surrounding this film, may lead to you believe this is it, his definitive role. Maybe it is in some ways, but the story and the movie simply fail to deliver.

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Factotum Review-lite [150-word cap]
Factotum, the highly depressing film co-written and directed by Norwegian Bent Hamer based on the Charles Bukowski novel stars, Lili Taylor, Marisa Tomei, and Matt Dillon as the moody, down-on-his-luck-for-life, alcoholic, unemployable, short story-writer, Henry Chinaski. Fans of Mr. Dillon may rejoice that Factotum represents a superior vehicle for his considerable talents than did You, Me & Dupree, only to have their hopes to see him in a truly great movie quickly dashed. The problem with the film is the slow, meandering, pointless, vacuous story with a main character that never grows beyond his difficulties and ends up virtually the same at the end. Matt Dillon's performance is nearly worth enduring the film, I however, eagerly await the Jack Nicholson heir apparent's The Shining so we can finally see what he can do in a really great movie. Preliminary buzz aside, the story and the movie simply fail to deliver.

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