The Pallbearer

Director: Matt Reeves

When I first saw The Pallbearer, I remember having a hard time believing that a character in their mid-twenties would have absolutely no memory of someone that was in not just their high school graduating class but supposedly in their circle of friends. Yet, now that I’m in my mid-twenties myself and it’s been less than a decade since graduation, I’m having trouble picturing even a handful of my classmates. Singer John Mayer might call it a “quarter life crisis” or perhaps the human mind can only hold the memory of a certain number of people but whatever the case, it’s this predicament magnified tenfold that twenty-five year old Tom Thompson (David Schwimmer) finds himself in near the beginning of Matt Reeves’ film, The Pallbearer.

Aimless Tom is trying to find his niche in the career world although it probably isn’t helping his plight any when he tells prospective employers in interviews that he hopes he’ll get the job so that he can move out of his mother’s house and get a place of his own. The sole single friend in his trio of handsome, successful, and smooth Scott (Michael Vartan) who lives with Cynthia (Toni Collette) and his engaged friend Brad (Michael Rapaport) whose fiancĂ© Lauren (Bitty Schram) is clingy, nagging and controlling, Tom is given his own second chance for love when the girl that got away—Julie De Marco (Gwyneth Paltrow)-- his hopeless high school band crush returns to town. It’s around this same time that he is alerted by blonde, sexy, Ruth Abernathy (Barbara Hershey) that her son has passed away and as the deceased’s best friend, Tom is asked to be a pallbearer and deliver the eulogy. The catch is that Tom has no memory whatsoever of Ruth’s son but out of politeness, pity, and guilt decides to go along with it and although the intentions are good, the deception grows even more cringe-worthy when Ruth seeks solace in Tom’s arms. Before you can say, “we’ve got to hide it from the kids, Mrs. Robinson,” Tom finds himself in a Graduate like love triangle with the young, beautiful Julie and the older, no-nonsense Ruth that helps propel the plot along for the rest of the running time. Although Tom is slightly less likable than Hoffman’s Benjamin Braddock and the whininess and grungy stripe-heavy apparel make him a character with whom it's hard to relate, the winning cast and some inventive bits of dialogue keep us interested in the tragicomedy that admittedly plays much better than second time around when one can relax a little now that the initial creepiness of deception has worn off.