Hank Chinaski can't hold a job, can't hold a woman, can't control his alcoholism, and can't make a decent friend because he wallows with the dregs of society. Chinaski is the lowest of the semi-functioning drunks, barely able to keep himself in seedy hotels and in liquor.
The movie centers around seedy bars and seedy people. Chinaski's struggles as a writer are only touched upon and not delved into. There's no budding poet or tragic talent underlying his alcoholism. The closest he comes to poetics, IMHO, is where he tells his ex-boss openly that he really needs his last check typed out now because he needs to get drunk. Though he claims to be a writer and seeks employment as a reporter (and even hints at having a college degree) Matt doean't talk about his work, not even when invited to. The best jobs he can find are ice crushing, a pickle factory, a bike repair shop, maintenence, but no matter what his work, the drink always comes first.
'Factotum' is saved by the acting and the ability of the costume designer to turn Matt Dillon (Hank), Lili Taylor (Jan), and Marisa Tormei (Laura) into sleazy characters who look rode hard and put out wet in each and every scene. The script is mellow, without any highs or lows to it. The movie is quieter than 'Leaving Las Vegas', or the hard hitting 'Requiem For A Dream', and without any of the comedic relief from 'Spun', but it manages to hold it's own with its compelling invitation into a more realistic portrayal of the everyday alcoholic, living in every city.
Even if you love addiction movies like I do, or love Dillon or Tormei, your enjoyment of the film will increase tenfold. For a quiet, laid back movie 'Factotum' holds a lot of punch to it. It's a movie you may want to view twice to capture the subtlness of Hank and Jan's decay. Though it lacks any real excitement, the characters grew on me and its become a favorite. I highly recommend this movie, especially to fans like me of addiction films and books. Enjoy!