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The 100




Pallbearer, The
(1996)
Reviewed by Reed Hubbard
Rating: 7 Beans

as a Friend made a decent movie yet? Let’s see. Matt LeBlanc did “Ed” and “Lost in Space.” Jennifer Anniston was in “She’s The One” and “The Object of My Affection.” Matthew Perry made “Fools Rush In.” Courteney Cox did “Commandments” and “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.” Lisa Kudrow starred in “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion.” I guess the answer would be no.

Wait! I forgot David Schwimmer and “The Pallbearer.” Make that a resounding, “NO!” While LeBlanc’s cinematic excursions have easily been the bottom scum of the “Friends” motion picture slop trough, Schwimmer’s “Pallbearer” does not rise much higher. Writer/director Matt Reeves’ screenplay was so poor that the only way it would ever have a chance was to cast a popular actor in the lead. How about someone from TV’s most popular twentysomething sitcom? How could that possibly miss? It did.

The first thing anyone who watches “The Pallbearer” will notice is that David Schwimmer is a one-dimensional actor. His character’s name might as well have been named Ross, for he plays aspiring architect Tom Thompson exactly as if he were shooting an episode of Must See TV. He whines and mopes and looks as if he’s going to cry half the time. And he won’t shut his mouth! I don’t mean he talks too much – he literally will not close his mouth. He constantly gazes at the camera with that dopey, vacant, Prozac induced stare, his mouth always agape. Just add a little drool and he’d fit right in with McMurphy, Chief, and the rest of the boys under Nurse Ratched’s care.

As for the movie, Schwimmer’s Thompson is a 25-year-old unemployed architect who lives with his mother. One day, the phone rings and he learns that a high school chum has committed suicide. Tom doesn’t remember the guy, but he’s too spineless to admit it, so he agrees to become a pallbearer and to give the eulogy. At just about the same time, Tom’s high school crush, Julie DeMarco (Gwyneth Paltrow) comes home. Tom wants to start something with her, but she’s confused, so he starts spending time with his dead classmate’s mother, played by Barbara Hershey.

At this point, the script seems to be cribbed from “The Graduate.” Tom gets sexually involved with Mrs. Abernathy, but starts to rethink his situation when Julie decides she might want to spend some time with him. The rest of the movie deals with this Hoffman-Bancroft-Ross inspired love triangle. There are some ancillary characters, like Tom’s married buddy, Scott, who makes a pass at Julie, or Tom’s oh-so-goofy mother (Carol Kane) who still treats Tom and his friends as if they were twelve. The problem is that these people have no function. They just seem to be there to fill out the cast, as if the script-by-numbers book Reeves was using to write his story said, “Rule #4 – You must have at least six characters to make a proper film.”

Ultimately, the movie goes nowhere. Tom experiences a bit of catharsis, but is basically the same slack-jawed dope at the end of the picture. The fate of the other characters remains a mystery, but no one cares much because the only really interesting character is Julie. She is a girl who has experienced some turmoil and is obviously torn as to how to deal with it. When Tom and his pals go to the funeral, the others get tickled when Tom delivers a eulogy over a person he never knew, yet Julie is truly shaken and does not find it amusing. Her desire to get in her car and drive off is a serious treatment of the yearnings of a restless generation, but it merely serves as a sideshow to Tom’s sophomoric struggle to grow up and get on with his life.

This movie is supposed to be a comedy, but it doesn’t feel like a comedy. Reeves seems to vacillate between lighthearted romanticism and more serious interpersonal relationships, but he’s never funny. The jokes are so out of place that they wouldn’t stand out more if the word “JOKE” flashed on the screen each time one was executed. It’s doubtful Schwimmer could do anything other than comedy, but he doesn’t appear very adept at even that here, choosing to rely on his “Friends” alter ego to take over and force the character of Tom. As such, Tom is a zero and it is difficult to find any sympathy for him. As portrayed by Schwimmer, he’s just a dork who can’t get a job and lives with his mommy.

If Reeves and his co-writer Jason Katims had made Julie the central character, “The Pallbearer” may have been a very good movie, but then they probably wouldn’t have been able to draw a Friend to the cast and that would’ve undermined the studio’s whole marketing strategy. Gwyneth Paltrow is not as big a star as Mr. Thursday Night and most likely would not have drawn many people to the theater, so you see, it was probably better this way.

No, it wasn’t. It’s only better than if they had given the lead to Matt LeBlanc.






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