Shiny Shelf


By Stephen Lavington on 12 November 2005

‘Factotum’ doesn’t initially present the most enticing of prospects: an adaptation of the writings of American miserablist Charles Bukowski, starring Matt Dillon and directed by Bent Hamer. However, go in with an open mind and you’ll be rewarded with a black nihilistic comedy with far more out-loud laughs than is reasonably from a film which, at heart, is about self-destruction and the bleak hopelessness of contemporary life.

It is also a pleasant antidote to the current trend for whimsical, meaning-of-life comedy drama (see ‘Orange County’, ‘Napoleon Dynamite’, ‘Garden State’, ‘Elizabethtown’, ‘The Wendell Baker Story’ etc etc). Henry Chinaski (Dillon) staggers (literally) from menial job to menial job while trying to make his name as a writer. He meets a girl, there’s turmoil, trouble ups and downs but it all ends… well, on a thoroughly downbeat note refreshingly enough. Dillon’s Chinaski is not a fresh-faced sensitive soul in the style of Zach Braff or Colin Hanks, nor a quirky lovable loser like Jon Heder (‘Napoleon Dynamite’) or Luke Wilson. He’s a bloated, blotchy, chauvinist misanthrope, whose inability to hold down a job for five minutes is due more to chronic alcoholism than life’s fundamental unfairness. Hamer (who also co-wrote the script with Jim Jarmusch regular Jim Stark) approaches the well-worn subject of the individual battling a homogenised society with tongue firmly in cheek, which makes up for a lack of ‘American Beauty’–style epiphanies with a dark, cynical sense of humour and a note perfect performance from Matt Dillon (though occasionally his histrionic eyebrow raising did remind me of Italian crooner muppet Johnny Fiama).

It’s not a date movie but if you’ve had enough of pretty boy dreamers achieve their quirky dreams in life-affirming ways then this is perfect for you.

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By Stephen Lavington

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