Back in 1979 (that’s a whole generation ago, kids!) Matt Dillon was appearing in films that would make the average reader of Tiger Beat swoon. He was in plenty of material like Little Darlings, Rumble Fish and The Outsiders that didn’t help that idea too much in the eyes of his female fans (of which there are scores). But since the early ’80s, he’s gone through a bit of a rediscovery, and in the film Factotum, based on the works of author Charles Bukowski, he may have hit his best stride to date.
In the film, Dillon plays Henry, a guy who takes many jobs and loses all of them rather quickly, but still finds enough time to drink while providing dramatic voiceover on his life as an aspiring writer he’s always wanted to be. The stories he periodically sends to publishers to read without success is part of his life too. He meets Jan (Lili Taylor, Say Anything) who helps him in a time where he’s lonely, but he leaves her and finds another woman in Laura (Marisa Tomei, My Cousin Vinny). In Laura he thinks he’s found love, but as it turns out, Laura is one of several barflys that a wealthy Frenchman houses and beds with great frequency. Of note, one of the women is played by Adrienne Shelly (Sleep With Me) in her last film role before her murder in late 2006. Anyway, side notes aside, Henry and Laura eventually split up, and in a stroke of luck, he manages to bump into Jan again, who helps to get him on his feet.
In terms of overall events, there really isn’t too much going on here, the showcase of the film is Dillon’s acting. What I think he manages to do in this film as Henry is to lead a rather unassuming life that doesn’t seem to have any joy in it, and Dillon portrays Henry as a guy who is quiet without a lot of reason to get angry, but will do so at the drop of a hat. As opposed to other roles where Dillon is well, pretty, he gets himself down and dirty for this one and for the jobs he undertakes, be it ice deliverer, statue cleaner, or whatever the hell he’s doing in a pickle factory.
All in all, director Bent Hamer’s (yes, that is his name) feature length debut in America isn’t too shabby. There’s a scene after Jan and Henry reunite that’s a little crude in its premise, but you can see in their faces that they’re happy to see each other, and they’re happy to care for each other again like they did before. That scene makes the end of the movie worthwhile, because it helps rejuvenate Henry so he doesn’t fall into any conventional traps, and even if he makes it, you could almost tell he doesn’t care.
1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Not pretty, but not bad. The grain is present and the film is meant to look fairly gritty, but in that independent quality there’s no reference quality images to be had.
There’s a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, but it’s a little bit wasted here. There’s a lot of people speaking quietly in a dialogue driven film, with music that sounds OK, if not a bit drab and too apathetic for home theater use.
You’ve got a couple of quick hits promoting the film, along with a look at the making of the film. The half hour piece is your standard run of the mill EPK, although it appears to be for Norwegian eyes (as Hamer hails from there). Nothing too special, though a Dillon/Hamer commentary would have been a nice thought.
Those who want a cheery movie with an up ending, please go elsewhere. Having said that, Factotum is an admirable take on things with a good performance by Dillon, and a lot of things and more powerful when they’re left unsaid, as this film often does. For those of you who enjoy the occasional Jim Jarmusch film, you should check this out, but for the larger observer, give it a rent.