Release Date: August 18th, 2006 (IFC Center) by IFC Films.
The Cast: Matt Dillon, Lili Taylor, Fisher Stevens, Marisa Tomei, Didier Flamand, Adrienne Shelly, Karen Young, Tony Lyons.
Directed by Bent Hamer.
BASIC PREMISE: Henry (Dillon) moves from job to job and girlfriend to girlfriend. Based on a novel by Charles Bukowski.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Matt Dillon gives a strong, convincing performance as Henry, a lazy man who goes from one dead-end job to another while drinking heavily in between. Although he seems to lead an aimless on the surface, he does have dreams of become a published writer, but that doesn’t really impress any of his bosses who require him to hard labor. The only real conflict is Henry’s battle with alcoholism which takes over his life in many different ways. Not surprisingly, he gets fired from jobs faster than the blink of an eye, such as a stint as a janitor at a museum. While working at a bicycle shop, he briefly befriends Manny (Stevens) who convinces him to bet on horses at the racetrack. Soon enough, he meets Jan (Taylor) at—where else?—a bar and they move in together, after a lot of sex, of course. Jan leaves him and he moves onto another girlfriend Laura (Tomei), a promiscuous women, but that relationship doesn’t get very far as well. Once Laura leaves him, he can’t stop thinking of Jan and tries to find her. Writer/director Bent Hamer could have included more conflicts and a more surprising plot, yet he manages to bring out enough true-to-life moments and allows you somewhat care about Henry. In a particularly dramatic scene, Henry visits his parents, speaks rudely to them and his father quickly kicks him out of the house. More scenes with his parents would have helped to clue the audience in on Henry’s childhood experiences—what led him to his drunken, aimless lifestyle? Hamer also includes some dark, quirky comedy—just watching Henry try to walk while all bandaged around his groin because of crabs is pretty funny. Fortunately, the scenes with Henry and Jan together are believable because they seem meant for each other and, to some degree, they have some chemistry—not just in bed. The narrative structure of Factotum doesn’t quite have much of a structure and seems just as aimless as Henry does, but at least the organic script doesn’t have any contrived or melodramatic scenes and Dillon’s consistently strong, believable performance helps to keep you absorbed from start to finish.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: Essentially, Henry just wants to fit into society, but goes through many obstacles along the way. Does he learn anything from his failures? It’s difficult to answer that, but what seems to be true is that he never gives up on his challenging quest to fit in. At least he finds Jan, somebody whom he share his feelings with in moving, poignant scenes. Perhaps she can inspire him to grow up, face life's many responsibilities and become a better person. Admittedly, he first has to attend rehab like Mel Gibson or Robin Williams have willingly done.
INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: Not enough background information about Henry.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 0
IN A NUTSHELL: Absorbing, poignant and insightful. Matt Dillon delivers a top-notch performance.
RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run)
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