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Movie Review: Factotum

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Matt Dillon has had moved in a very positive direction the past couple of years, especially when his role in Crash reestablished his legitimacy as a Hollywood star. Dillon's newest endeavor has attracted Oscar buzz for quite some time now as he portrays a character that many people believe to be the alter ego of writer Charles Bukowski. While Dillon's performance was as complete and precise as anyone could ask, anyone who is familiar with Bukowski's work knows that Dillon was required to portray the role of an alcoholic jerk.

Factotum follows the path of Henry Chinaski (Matt Dillon), a cynical and sarcastic drunk through both professional and romantic endeavors. Henry finds himself passing through job after job and woman after woman without ever finding satisfaction, other then meeting his own expectations of disappointment. While passing through life with a nonchalant swagger, Henry documents his sorrows within a series of short stories.

Matt Dillon has found great success in portraying negative characters. While his performance was dead on, the ability to play a sarcastic drunk is not one that I would qualify as a skill or trade. The film was mildly entertaining but mostly slow and drawn out. The only source of entertainment came from Henry's cynical commentary made throughout the film. The character of Henry Chinaski, much like the film, is comparable to the black sheep uncle of a family … amusing and disappointing, but mostly just unnecessary.

When it came time for the credits to roll, I found myself both disappointed and confused. After seeing a movie that seems to have no plot, besides showing how depressing life can be, some type of conclusion would provide mild gratification, if any. Factotum follows in the footsteps of films such as About Schmidt and American Splendor, meaning that while these films were heavily anchored by a masterful lead performance they still fell short in the entertainment category.

Release Date: August 18, 2006

Final Grade: C-

The Upside: Humorous commentary throughout the film from Dillon.

The Downside: Feels like a film without an ending.

On the Side: Sean Penn was the first choice for the role of Henry Chinaski.

Brian Gibson is the Associate Editor of Film School Rejects

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  • I simply have never understood the fascination with Bukowski. He certainly had no life skill to write about. Maybe reading Bukowski makes people feel better about their own sorry-ass lives in comparison. Why do we enjoy witnessing the degradation of another person’s life vicariously? Having been forced to witness a bit of that life as a child because of my father, I can honestly say there is no illumination in alcoholism. We romanticize the literate drunk, but they also leave a trail of devastation in their wake.