Perhaps I'm too much of a literalist to stomach a thickly ironic, extremely low-budget adaptation of Herman Melville's "Bartleby the Scrivener" set in an eerily sterile modern office. Or perhaps writer-director Jonathan Parker's update of the conceptual tale about a boss driven crazy by an uncooperative employee really is as under-rehearsed and lifeless as it seems to me.
At the center of "Bartleby" is the title character, a meek, withdrawn oddball played by Crispin Glover (the Thin Man in "Charlie's Angels" and George McFly in "Back to the Future") with his quiet, uneasy, string-bean quirkiness turned up full blast. He comes to work as a paper-pusher in a government records office for a fidgety boss (David Paymer) whose subservient existence of sedated equilibrium is thrown for a loop when Bartleby simply stops working one day, answering every order and request with "I would prefer not to."
Before long he's living in the office and spending the better part of each day staring at an air conditioning duct while Paymer goes nuts trying to reason with him.
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