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Bartleby (2001)

Cast: David Paymer, David Paymer, Crispin Glover, more...
Director: Jonathan Parker, Jonathan Parker
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Studio: Fox Lorber
Genre: Independent
Running Time: 83 min.
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Herman Melville's short story Bartleby the Scrivener gets a slightly surreal update in this offbeat comedy drama. The manager (David Paymer) of the city records department in a mid-sized California community decides that his staff of three -- flirty chatterbox Vivian (Glenne Headly), sloppy Vietnam vet Ernie (Maury Chaykin), and slick-suited, Don Juan wannabe Rocky (Joe Piscopo) -- could use some help, so he places an ad looking for a new employee. The boss ends up hiring the one and only applicant who wants the position, a quiet, pale young man named Bartleby (Crispin Glover). At first, Bartleby is a model of efficiency, but before long he loses enthusiasm for his job, much to the annoyance of his co-workers, and soon he's spending his days staring at an air conditioning vent. The Boss asks Bartleby to get back to work, but Bartleby's repeated reply to such requests is, "I prefer not to," and the Boss sees little recourse but to fire him. However, Bartleby refuses to leave his desk, and it soon becomes obvious that Bartleby has not only stopped doing his work -- he's stopped going home and has moved into the office. Bartleby was the first feature film for producer/director Jonathan Parker; he also wrote the screenplay, in collaboration with Catherine Di Napoli. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

Visually Inspired by MKluth October 8, 2005 - 2:02 AM PDT
1 out of 3 members found this review helpful
A movie essentially about the lack of events happening. Admittedly, the parody gets a little awkward, but it makes compelling points about modernity without getting ham-fisted.

Understandably people will want to compare all office comedies/dramas, but Mellville and Parker are both more interested in office as setting for existential investigation than office as subject in itself. Glover calls it "Kafka-esque" in the additional interviews.

No breaking of copy/fax machines, nothing explodes, but one dream sequence in particular makes the whole thing worthwile. If you're not going to be patient or just want to see people in commuter cars rapping along to their stereos, there are tons of better office movies to chose from. (Or if you're down for both kinds, try Brazil.)

I would prefer not to ... by GGoodsell March 12, 2005 - 8:58 PM PST
4 out of 6 members found this review helpful
Reduced to working as a lowly clerk in the last years of his life, Herman Melville looked into the 20th and 21st Century and saw the encroaching alienation of modern man. The result of this vision was his novella, Bartleby the Scrivener," his most famous work next to "Moby Dick." "Bartleby" tells the tale of a lowly quill-pusher employed by a firm who, while at the onset is an ideal employee who succumbs to inertia. When asked to do his assigned tasks, he replies "I would prefer not to." Narrated by his harried employer, the story follows Bartleby's reduction to a literal piece of office furniture, given to gazing out the window.

Set in a vaguely defined modern day, the cinematic adaptation struggles to expand the slight story to feature length. Crispin Glover plays the title character, adding to his long line of movie oddballs. Glover portrays Bartleby as a white-faced, black-suited cipher quite a few sandwiches short of a picnic. His coworkers (attired in the worst fashion excesses of the Sixties and Seventies) struggle to accommodate his needs. Much of the films humor is an extrapolation of common situations found in "workplace hell;" weve all worked along Bartlebies who seemingly do nothing all day and respond to all attempts at camaraderie with surly indifference. Its territory thats been covered before and with much funnier results. OFFICE SPACE comes foremost to mind.

To its credit, BARTLEBY features some eye-popping art direction and fine performances from some seen too infrequently character actors such as Carrie Snodgress, Dan Rowan and "Saturday Night Lives" Joe Piscopo (Whatever happened to him?). AS for BARTLEBY the film & well, I would prefer not to.

don't ever ever consider it by HelenDan February 6, 2004 - 12:05 AM PST
3 out of 7 members found this review helpful
Ouch! Horribly over acted, horrible sound track, redundant scenes, characters that go beyond being unconvincing becoming completely irritating. If I was a dictator I would shoot the director.

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(Average 5.79)
107 Votes
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