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Henry Chinaski (Matt Dillon) has done pretty much everything. He’s worked in a pickle factory, a brake shoe factory, and a bike supply warehouse. But if you ask Henry what he does, he’ll tell you he’s a writer. Of course, although he regularly sends his short stories to a literary magazine, none of them have actually been published—and he’s “not ready for a novel yet.” But he keeps trying. He can’t say the same for his other jobs, though. They’re just temporary—just something to pay his cheap rent and his expensive bar tab—and he never keeps them for long. He’s just there until he punches a coworker or gets caught drinking on the job or smoking where he’s not supposed to. But Henry doesn’t care. All he cares about is booze and sex—and, of course, his writing.

Henry’s relationships come and go almost as quickly as his jobs. From Jan (Lili Taylor), who serves him wine and pancakes for dinner, to the mysteriously classy Laura (Marisa Tomei), Henry will hook up with any woman who will talk to him at the bar—and he’ll stick around until he feels like moving on.

Factotum follows Henry from job to job and from bar to bar as he shuffles along in a drunken haze. The character, based on the works of Charles Bukowski, is a kind of down-and-out Hunter S. Thompson—not wealthy enough to become an addict, not famous enough to trash expensive hotel rooms, not successful enough to be manic, but with the same devil-may-care attitude. And Dillon plays him effortlessly—just the way he should be played. Still, despite his general indifference toward pretty much everything and his failure to do much of anything but drink, Henry has a dry wit that makes him almost a likeable character—and his darkly funny story will make you laugh even when you think you shouldn’t.

Since I wasn’t familiar with Bukowski’s work, I didn’t know what to expect from Factotum. I found it to be a humorous yet exhausting film—which, I think, was director Bent Hamer’s intention. It’s not a mainstream kind of movie, with a beginning, middle, and end (and action throughout). In fact, there isn’t much action, or even a solid plot. It’s just the wandering story of a wandering drunk and self-proclaimed artist. And somehow it manages to be depressing and funny at the same time. While it won’t appeal to a wide mainstream audience, Factotum is an interesting character sketch. Check it out if you’re looking for a change of pace.

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