Bartleby (2001)

PG-13  |   |  Comedy, Drama, Mystery  |  10 March 2001 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.4/10 from 1,515 users   Metascore: 48/100
Reviews: 34 user | 31 critic | 19 from

A clueless boss has no idea what to do with his mundane office worker whose refusal of duties only gets worse each passing minute.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Frank Waxman
Book Publisher
The Mayor
Greta Danielle Newgren ...
Boss's Date
Josh Kornbluth ...
Nick Scoggin ...
Street Philosopher
Stoney Burke ...
Soup Kitchen Server
Terry Allen Jones ...
New Tenant
Stu Klitsner ...
Professor Bum (as Stuart Klitsner)


At a public records office, a seemingly normal boss has hired a new employee named Bartleby. Bartleby however, is eccentric and with each passing day, he begins to refuse his boss' orders which only gets worse. Eventually, the boss finds himself clueless as to what to do about Bartleby as he discovers even stranger things about him. Written by Mystic80

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


I would prefer not to.


Comedy | Drama | Mystery

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for some sexual content | See all certifications »


Official Sites:



Release Date:

10 March 2001 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Bartleby at the Office  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$14,599 (USA) (24 May 2002)


$141,367 (USA) (23 August 2002)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Dick Martin's final acting performance. See more »


When the boss's date is straddling him in his office, sometimes her hair is wrapped in a scarf and sometimes it's not. See more »


Rocky: Let me tell you something: It's the sensitive guy that gets the needy woman.
Ernie: Yeah, well it's the worm that gets the hooker.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Special thanks to Christina, Walter and Tricia See more »


References Beatlemania (1981) See more »


Phantasie #3 In D Minor
Written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (as Mozart)
Background music on piano by Nancy Spottiswoode
See more »

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User Reviews

American Black-Humor at Its Finest
27 November 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Herman Melville was a pessimist, which should be unsurprising to anyone who has read him. Taken from his short, "Bartelby the Scrivener", this is the second of two-attempts to translate this story to film. The first was a good British-version (1972) that is much-closer to the original story, but suffers from being placed outside of its American-context. "Bartelby" is about America, and is Pre-Marxist in its criticisms of American-capitalism. What is remarkable is that it was written in the 1850s (unlikely to have been influenced by Marx in any way), when we were gradually becoming a business-run nation, and moving-away from being a purely-agricultural one. This process would commence more-fully after the Civil War, but for someone like Melville, living in New York City was the writing-on-the-wall.

But what makes "Bartelby" so amazing and chilling is that it resonates so strongly today. The problems we face now, due to the distortions inherent in our economic system, are still with us.If Melville said anything in his short-story, it was this: "What will become of the Bartelbys of the world?" Not everyone fits-into this job-system, and this should be no-surprise regarding an economy of "winner-takes-all", money-Godism. Under our profit-motive economy, people are simply left-behind, and Melville challenges our indifference to the needy.This was a very small-production, so I can understand why it is almost unknown. These are often the best films.

The character Bartelby is more than just a non-conformist--he represents everyone who is neglected by our culture and economy. He reminds-us of the inhumanity in our daily-lives. Melville enjoins-us to help the next Bartelby we see, and acknowledge our responsibility for the way things are. The office-boss character feels he isn't responsible for Bartelby and his "I would prefer not to" difficulties, but Melville is really saying that he IS. There is an implied collective-guilt in the story that would not be addressed adequately until the Holocaust, which helps it retain a sense of the contemporary. Melville even prefigures Kafka and the school of absurdism in his story, it is genius. This film is an expert updating of this story, and it works well! It's both funny and pitch-black in its despair regarding modern life. Crispin Glover is inspired, with the qualities of a silent-film actor (Lon Chaney, or Conrad Veidt from Caligari) in his expressiveness, and there are some great slapstick-gags. This is film-making at its best, it's what you need. You will feel vindicated.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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