The Pallbearer

1996, PG-13, 94 min. Directed by Matt Reeves. Starring David Schwimmer, Gwyneth Paltrow, Michael Rapaport, Toni Collette, Michael Vartan, Carol Kane, Bitty Schram, Barbara Hershey.

REVIEWED By Alison Macor, Fri., May 10, 1996

Ross in Hollywood? Is it possible?! Not only is it possible, but letting David Schwimmer move from the overexposed sitcom Friends to the silver screen makes Matt Reeves' directorial debut The Pallbearer a fairly engaging film. Tom Thompson (Schwimmer) is a recent college grad looking for a position with an architectural firm and living at home with his mother (Kane) in Brooklyn. His closest friends, Scott (Vartan) and Brad (Rapaport), are married and engaged, respectively, but Tom can't seem to get a date. Living at home with Mom doesn't help the situation. Neither do bunk beds, although they could prove entertaining down the road. When Tom gets a call that a high school classmate has committed suicide, he finds himself first a pallbearer and then the deliverer of a eulogy for a person he cannot remember. The return to the neighborhood of his unrequited high school crush Julie (Paltrow, last seen in Seven) stirs up even more trauma for Tom. Schwimmer's performance fluctuates between ingratiating dorkiness and raw sweetness. There are moments when The Pallbearer becomes a bit leaden with its film rip-offs, such as the opening scene in which Tom, at yet another interview, sounds a lot like Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate. Luckily, Schwimmer loses that tone a bit later, but shades of Mike Nichols' film reappear, most notably in the character of Ruth Abernathy (Hershey), the deceased friend's bereaved, high-heeled mother. Here's to you, Mrs. Robinson. The Pallbearer redeems itself through Paltrow's playing Julie as awkwardly as Schwimmer does Tom, and just as endearingly. Tom's relationship with friends Scott and Brad seems a little underdeveloped, particularly in light of the film's final scenes. More of Toni Collette (Muriel's Wedding) as Scott's wife Cynthia also would have been fun, but The Pallbearer can't do everything. What it does do is tell a familiar story in a fairly fresh and definitely humorous way, thanks to co-screenwriters Jason Katims and Reeves. An eclectic soundtrack featuring Al Green, Sheryl Crow, Herbie Hancock, and Neil Young rounds out a number of scenes, and the lack of a pat ending makes The Pallbearer a fun and somewhat surprising romantic comedy.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Matt Reeves Films
The Batman
A new, brilliant, and bleaker caped crusader

Richard Whittaker, March 4, 2022

War for the Planet of the Apes
The capstone of the Apes reboot sticks the landing

Marc Savlov, July 14, 2017

More by Alison Macor
'The Last Supper'
'The Last Supper'
'Chainsaws, Slackers, and Spy Kids: 30 Years of Filmmaking in Austin, Texas': an excerpt

Feb. 26, 2010

Grosse Pointe Blank
The film is a wacky joyride through a hit man's high school reunion.

April 11, 1997


The Pallbearer, Matt Reeves, David Schwimmer, Gwyneth Paltrow, Michael Rapaport, Toni Collette, Michael Vartan, Carol Kane, Bitty Schram, Barbara Hershey

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle