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Bartleby (2001)

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

Director:

Jonathan Parker

Writers:

Herman Melville (story "Bartleby the Scrivener"), Jonathan Parker (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
David Paymer ... The Boss
Crispin Glover ... Bartleby
Glenne Headly ... Vivian
Maury Chaykin ... Ernest
Joe Piscopo ... Rocky
Seymour Cassel ... Frank Waxman
Carrie Snodgress ... Book Publisher
Dick Martin ... The Mayor
Greta Danielle Newgren Greta Danielle Newgren ... Boss's Date
Ken Murakami ... Landlord
Josh Kornbluth ... Property Manager
Nick Scoggin Nick Scoggin ... Street Philosopher
Stoney Burke Stoney Burke ... Soup Kitchen Server
Terry Allen Jones ... New Tenant
Stu Klitsner Stu Klitsner ... Professor Bum (as Stuart Klitsner)
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Storyline

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

Taglines:

I would prefer not to.

Genres:

Comedy | Drama | Mystery

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

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

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

Parker Film Company

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

10 March 2001 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Bartleby at the Office See more »

Filming Locations:

Novato, California, USA See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$14,599, 27 May 2002, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$148,479
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Parker Film Company See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby SR

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Dick Martin's final acting performance. See more »

Goofs

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 »

Quotes

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

Before the opening credits begin, viewers are given a portrait and short biography of Herman Melville, upon whose story the film is loosely based. See more »

Connections

Version of Bartleby (1976) See more »

Soundtracks

Preludes
Written by Claude Debussy
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 myboigieSee 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.


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