Factotum | Chicago Reader

Factotum

In the autobiographical novel Factotum, Charles Bukowski surveyed the numerous crap jobs he worked in the 1940s while he was teaching himself to write, and his cold-eyed appraisal of manual labor and the spiritual death it brings helped cement his reputation as poet laureate of the American underclass. This adaptation by writer-director Bent Hamer (Kitchen Stories) leans toward the novel's episodes of doomed romance and drunken mischief, assembling them into a subdued and less effective version of Barfly (1987), the raucous comedy Bukowski penned for director Barbet Schroeder. As Henry Chinaski, the author's stand-in, Matt Dillon does a magnificent slow burn that evokes Bukowski's true personality more than Mickey Rourke managed with his absurdly hammy performance in the earlier movie. But despite some fine black comedy, this hovers uncertainly between the novel's tragic precision and Barfly's existential burlesque. With Lili Taylor and Marisa Tomei. R, 94 min.

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