Entertainment Weekly

Subscribe

Stay Connected

Subscribe

Advertise With Us

Learn More

Skip to content

Article

Bartleby

Posted on

David Paymer, Crispin Glover, ...

Bartleby

type:
Movie
Current Status:
In Season
mpaa:
PG-13
runtime:
83 minutes
Limited Release Date:
05/24/02
performer:
Crispin Glover, David Paymer, Seymour Cassel, Maury Chaykin, Glenne Headly, Joe Piscopo
director:
Jonathan Parker
distributor:
Outrider
author:
Catherine DiNapoli, Jonathan Parker
genre:
Drama

We gave it a D

The cult of Crispin Glover has only grown as his presence as an artist has shrunk. He’s still pushing the same vintage roboto weirdness — the hair like a shellacked Beatle wig, the terrified-cuckoo stare, the wavery voice that sounds as if it were caught in a tremor of nausea. Except that Glover, back in the ’80s, used to merge with his roles: In ”Back to the Future” and ”River’s Edge,” he was stylized yet true, a Method actor gone madly Kabuki. Now, he just seems like an overgrown moon child desperate to be loved for the very concept of his eccentric being. It doesn’t help that Bartleby is a one-joke movie, and a bad joke at that. The director, Jonathan Parker, takes ”Bartleby the Scrivener,” Herman Melville’s visionary novella about the repressed madness of the stultified modern office worker, and turns it into a no-fizzle episode of ”Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.” Glover, wearing a dark suit and a look of blank worry, is Bartleby, who takes a job as a file clerk and begins to answer every directive with the enigmatic rebel homily, ”I would prefer not to.” It’s no insult to Melville to say that he wrote, in effect, the original ”Dilbert.” This movie, unfortunately, makes ”Dilbert” look like Melville.