Film Review: Bartleby (2001)

Also known as: Bartleby at the Office (working title)
Release Date: March 10th, 2001 (SXSW)
Directed by: Jonathan Parker
Written by: Herman Melville, Jonathan Parker, Catherine DiNapoli
Based on: Bartleby, the Scrivener by Herman Melville
Music by: Seth Asarnow, Jonathan Parker
Cast: David Paymer, Crispin Glover, Glenne Headly, Maury Chaykin, Joe Piscopo, Seymour Cassel, Carrie Snodgrass, Dick Martin

Parker Film Company, 83 Minutes

Review:

“I would prefer not to.” – Bartleby

Outside of his own directorial efforts, Bartleby may be the most Crispin Glover movie out of all the Crispin Glover movies ever made.

But I’ve always liked Glover and since I hadn’t seen this since it was fairly new, I figured it was time to revisit it. Plus, it was available for free to Prime members.

The film is a modernized adaptation of Herman Melville’s Bartleby, the Scrivemer and despite its setting, it doesn’t really deviate too much from the source material. I also think that the creative approach makes it more palatable to a modern audience, who might not want to read the old story or watch the 1970 adaptation of it.

While Crispin Glover plays the title character, the main character is actually The Boss, played by David Paymer.

Paymer approaches the role a bit understated, except where emotion overcomes him. It’s a really good performance and he is able to display agitation and care on almost the flip of a dime. He feels damn genuine, as he tries to understand and deal with the difficulties of his new employee.

Glover’s performance is even more understated than Paymer’s but the role of Bartleby calls for that, as one has to assume that he’s a guy that’s just given up on life. What’s interesting about the story is that you never really get to solve or really understand the mystery that is Bartleby. He comes into the story and eventually, his story is over, not revealing much about him. Now there are some clues as to why he was so depressed and unable to participate in the world but it’s never made fully clear to the viewer.

The cast is rounded out by other really talented people who work at or come into the office. You have Glenne Headly as the secretary with Joe Piscopo and Maury Chaykin as co-workers who become very disgruntled over Bartleby’s lack of effort. Seymour Cassel also appears in a minor role as a sort of sleazy businessman.

I like the style and simplicity of the film. It feels otherworldly and its supposed to but it works well for the material. Everything is also helped out by an interesting, quirky and cool score by Seth Asarnow and the film’s director, Jonathan Parker.

Overall, this is a strange but interesting movie that was the perfect vehicle for someone as unique and talented as Glover. I don’t know if it was made with him in mind for the title character but it really was perfect casting and gave the film a certain mystique it probably would’ve been lacking without his involvement.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: the 1970 adaptation of Bartleby, as well as other films starring Crispin Glover.

Film Review: Omoo-Omoo, the Shark God (1949)

Also known as: The Shark God (UK)
Release Date: June 10th, 1949
Directed by: Leon Leonard
Written by: George D. Green, Leon Leonard
Based on: Omoo by Herman Melville
Music by: Albert Glasser
Cast: Ron Randell, Devera Burton

Screen Guild Productions, 58 Minutes

Review:

“Mr. Garland you’re not paying attention to me.” – Julie Guy, “Attention? I love you.” – Jeff Garland

Omoo-Omoo, the Shark God is something I came across while searching for the perfect Tiki themed movie. This is not it.

The film is less than an hour but it feels longer than that. It isn’t very good and a large bulk of the film uses stock footage. This was typical at the beginning of the independent film era but it was not a formula that served its movies well.

In Omoo-Omoo, we see what happens when a bunch of greedy white people take advantage of another culture. In this case, white people steal some jewels from the eyes of an idol on Tahiti. The group is then cursed at sea and on land. They are even attacked by a stock footage Bengal tiger. However, all their woes go away when the idol gets its eyes back.

Omoo-Omoo lacks in just about every department. The acting is bad, the cinematography is really bad, the editing is even worse, the implementation of stock footage stuck out like a sore thumb and the score was uninspiring for something that should have represented the lush tropical islands and jungles of the South Pacific.

This is a film that could have been really cool in more capable hands.

And yes, it is bad enough to go through the Cinespiria Shitometer. Let’s see… a-ha! Omoo-Omoo‘s results have come through and they say that it is a “Type 2 Stool: Sausage-shaped but lumpy.”

Rating: 2/10