Aside from its blatant appropriation of themes, situations and even shots from The Graduate, The Pallbearer is a passably entertaining seriocomedy about the dawning of adulthood for some, uh, graduates who don’t quite know what to do with their lives. Appealing performances by David Schwimmer and Gwyneth Paltrow go a long way toward putting over this very slightly offbeat tale of twentysomethings trying to find their way.
Without a job a year out of college and still living with mom in Brooklyn, affable oaf Tom Thompson (Schwimmer) gets a call out of the blue from a Ruth Abernathy (Barbara Hershey), asking him to serve as a pallbearer at the funeral of her son, with whom Tom supposedly went to high school. He doesn’t even remember her boy, but obliges.
His circle of friends is limited to his old high school pals Scott (Michael Vartan) and Brad (Michael Rapaport) and their respective girlfriends Cynthia (Toni Collette) and Lauren (Bitty Schram), so he is caught off guard by the reappearance of the lovely Julie DeMarco (Gwyneth Paltrow). Once he sees her, he’s a goner all over again. But before Tom can get anywhere with Julie, the grieving Mrs Abernathy seduces the young man. The Pallbearer is nowhere near as barbed or witty as the earlier pic, and it doesn’t convey anything particular about the Zeitgeist of its period, a crucial factor in the huge success of The Graduate. Reeves’ film speaks for the large number of people in their 20s who still live with their parents, but otherwise could have taken place just about anytime and anyplace.