The Pallbearer (1996) – Review

3 1/2 Stars

The Pallbearer has a similar charm (and theme) as the seminal 1967 film The Graduate. That film made Dustin Hoffman a star. This picture aims to do the same for television star David Schwimmer. But the real magic of the movie comes from its off-beat premise, subtle performances, and beautiful photography by Roger Elswitt.

Aspiring architect Tom Thompson (Schwimmer) receives a call from mysterious Ruth Abernathy (Barbara Hershey) that his best friend, “Bill,” has taken his own life. Except that Tom has never met Bill and neither have his incredulous friends. So when Tom foolishly agrees to give the eulogy at Bill’s funeral, it sets him on a collision course with Ruth — who is revealed to be Bill’s oversexed mother — and Julie DeMarco (Gwyneth Paltrow), the longtime crush Tom hasn’t seen since they were teens.

There is a surprising amount of chemistry between Schwimmer and Gwyneth Paltrow. The two leads infuse their characters with sensitivity and longing. I especially admire the conviction of Matt Reeves and co-writer Jason Katnis for allowing their story to be (at times) odd, hopeful, and ambiguous. The Pallbearer is an overlooked gem from the mid-nineties Miramax assembly line.

Director: Matt Reeves
Stars: David Schwimmer, Gwyneth Paltrow Barbara Hershey

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