Bartleby Review

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An enigmatic office drone suddenly refuses to perform any duties assigned him.


Jonathan Parker's directorial debut, actually made back in 2001, is a modern interpretation of Herman Melville's 1856 story, Bartleby The Scrivener.

The eponymous central character (Glover) is a pallid, introverted jobsworth employed by The Boss (Paymer) at the Public Records Office who, after showing initial diligence, starts responding to any requests to do work with, "I would prefer not to." Having placed the 19th century story in a surreal futuristic world, Parker not only fails to bring out the modern relevance of the tale, but also to make us share his passion for Melville's work. He tries hard, but allows too many misjudgements: Glover's performance is too minimal, Paymer's too theatrical, the script is faithful but awkward, and Parker's own music is embarrassingly amateurish.

A fable that leaves us unenlightened at the end, but a curiously worthy failure.