Directed by: Jonathan Parker
This was the type of film I was obsessed with about a good 15 years ago. I remember a time when these little quirky independent straight-to-video films were all the rage. During this period, I rarely ever went to the theater or saw any big budget films. This was how I became aware of some personal favorites of mine to this day, films like Tom DiCillo's Living in Oblivian (1995) for example. I just love that film to death.
Though this one was made many years later, it still has the same look and feel of those mid 90's treasures, but surprisingly, I'd never heard of it until I was browsing Netflix recently. This was one of those late night-need to watch something to fall asleep-kinda films and sometimes, you just can't go wrong with Crispin Glover in full on "strange" mode.
I would prefer not to.
Bartleby is a very simple movie, the majority of which takes place inside an office. The Boss (David Paymer) runs a public records office with 3 employees. Thinking it's time to expand he decides to put out an ad for a new position, a filer. Bartleby (Crispin Glover) answers the ad and though the interview process is itself a little awkward, The Boss decides to give Bartleby a shot anyway. Immediately Bartleby is on the ball. Quick, efficient and very good at filing. But after a few days it becomes apparent things will not be going as smoothly as The Boss had hoped after every single request and order is replied with a "I would prefer not to". Strange, but amusing at first, The Boss quickly becomes unnerved and increasingly unraveled after Bartleby's repeated denials to do any kind of work become too much for him to bare.
This is not a great film, but it's unique and quirky enough that it becomes very entertaining, especially on a late night as you're casually looking for something to watch as you wait to get sleepy. The small cast is a standout, which surprised me for a film this small in scale. David Paymer is always fun to watch, but you've also got Joe Piscopo, Maury Chaykin and Glenne Headley as the office staff. Crispin Glover, of course, is great. Nobody can play eccentric quite like he can. And that's one of Bartleby's biggest strengths. Just the right amount of unique casting to give the film that little edge. The film's 70's inspired costume and set decor are a real standout, as is Seth Asarnow and director Jonathan Parker's inventive and kitschy score.
A fun little film with enough elements done the right way to give it that little bit of edge. It's also a hard film to categorize, as most of these films are. It's not a comedy, but it has funny little bits here and there. It's not a drama, but offers a few bits in there as well. And I think that's why I like these types of films so much. They blend enough of all these elements with a unique and creative sensibility that they become entertaining, whether you know how to categorize them or not.