Cribbing not only from the titular Charles Bukowski novel but also from three of Chuck's later works, Factotum meditates on purpose, employment, booze and floozies.
Matt Dillon plays the writer's alter ego, Hank Chinaski, slow and stoic, having packed on a paunch and a cache of chin stubble. In the novel, Chinaski floats in and out of flophouses, bars and dead-end jobs across the country, though most of Bukowski's writing was scrawled in Los Angeles.
The film owes much of its impact to the characters' existence beyond time and place. The city is an anonymous drift; the story unfolds at some point in the past 40 years, allowing the viewer to concentrate on the performances and Chinaski's voice-over narrative.
Dillon is pretty--not gritty--with only a small injection of gravel in the pipes and occasional ham-fistedness. Bukowski's gruff sexuality is minimalized, replaced by an emotional daze and punk frankishness that attracts Jan (Lili Taylor) and Laura (Marisa Tomei). Bukowski was brutally honest in his appraisal of human nature, its motivations and limitations. Factotum features standout performances from its three leads, each conveying the spirit of Bukowski--the fallen characters drawn into his orbit, raw and real and desperate.