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Bartleby

Starring:
Crispin Glover, David Paymer,Glenne Headly, Maury Chaykin, and Joe Piscopo.
Directed by:
Jonathon Parker
Rated:
PG-13


You know you know the name 'Bartleby' ….it's the "other" story by Moby Dick author Herman Melville; 'Bartleby the Scrivener'. It was a short story and should have been a short film….but it's not it's an hour and a half of you waiting for the thing to go somewhere. Dear God how can a premise go so wrong? A phrase become so maddening? A film so off?

The cast is precious; Crispin Glover plays Bartleby, David Paymer his jovial boss, and his coworkers are deliciously served up by Glenne Headley, Joe Piscopo, and Maury Chaykin. Too bad they don't have anything worthy of their talents to do...

And even my undying love for Crispin Glover's, shall we say, unique aura and piercing stare and my deep affection for his continually signature quirky quasi-mad genius deliveries couldn't assist in the tedium of his character's continual quipping of the one line "I'd prefer not to."

So annoying was this phrasing after its 4356th delivery it became a dreaded event not unlike aural nails upon a board within my fragile skull. Yep, the film maker and scripters (Jonathan Parker and Catherine DiNapoli) rework of the classic short tale made a gigantic verbal faux pas stepping well over the line of clever joke wink-wink, " Isn't that a hoot to see Glover deliver!" To, " DEAR God if Crispy says that friggin' sentence one more time I am pitching a tizzy tent against this thing!"

He did, and here's my tizzy tent! Having Crispin as the quirky Bartleby got me to the film, I am that shallow I am afraid to say. I sat awaiting what he'd serve up anxiously…However, within 35 tedious minutes I wanted to speed slap the director who I pictured looking like Ed Grimmley holding his groin to prevent an "accident" from laughter each time Glover said those now infamous words "I'd prefer not to."

Mr. Parker I tried to enjoy your film, but unfortunately a funny phrase does not a film make. We needed some more guts to the blah-blah-blah story.

The film follows the short and ominous career path of Bartleby an ex-postal worker (ha-ha knee-slap) and present filing clerk for a depressing office. He is, at first, the quintessential do-good employee. But when his boss (David Paymer) asks for a simple shift of job duties another side of the chap is shown. He just will not comply. For example he refuses to witness and sign an affidavit sheet or even lend a (literal) finger to help with a package's ornamental bow....he prefers not to.

His boss is too afraid to fire Bartleby since he's the "new" boss and wouldn't want to look as if the position is too much for him to handle. So he gives in to many of Bartleby's annoying ridiculous idiosyncrasies.

After sleepless nights and (hysterical) nightmares starring Bartleby, the Boss figures the best way out for all concerned...

The end is dramatic and far fetched even for a farcical tale such as this. And considering how we indulged the writers their tedious little tale we deserved — no demanded— some grandiose payoff; a cerebral severance check of tremendous proportions for our valuable (wasted) time. Some parts are very funny but none cause all-out-snorts and NONE actually warrant viewing - sorry. Perhaps if this was a tight short film?

A positive note to the film was a great odd performance by Maury Chaykin. He's one of the fore mentioned coworkers in Bartleby's odd little office. Chaykin delivers some of the funniest lines and one grew positively desperate for his scenes to come up….to keep you awake, to keep you childlike with hope, nay, dreams of the thing switching to become a watchable film.

Also on the positive side was its look. Bartleby is a very 'neat' looking film. The sets and costumes very well presented. Bartleby has a wonderful style.

If you're a Crispin fan go ahead, I know I can't stop you, who could resist? I mean he is as eerily handsome as ever and spews his brand of signature weird on cue like verbal heroin but truly this is one bad film folks. Recommend this film? I'd prefer not to.

Snack recommendation:
NoDoz, black coffee and stop by Blockbuster and get a "Crispin Classic" Rubin and Ed rental for later

 

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