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The Pallbearer

Release date: May 03, 1996
Directed by: Matt Reeves
Written by: Jason Katims, Matt Reeves
Produced by: Jeffrey Abrams, Paul Webster
Running time: 98 minutes

Tom (David Schwimmer), who can't land a decent job and still lives with his mother, receives a call from Ruth Abernathy (Barbara Hershey), who informs Tom that her son Bill, Tom's best friend in high school, has killed himself. She wants Tom to deliver the eulogy and serve as a pallbearer. Tom agrees, though he has no recollection of Bill. After delivering a lackluster eulogy, Tom meets Ruth and begins an impulsive affair with her. He also encounters Julie DeMarco (Gwyneth Paltrow), a beautiful classmate for whom he's long carried a torch.

Cast & Characters

David Schwimmer (Tom Thompson), Gwyneth Paltrow (Julie DeMarco), Barbara Hershey (Ruth Abernathy), Michael Rapaport (Brad Schorr), Toni Collette (Cynthia), Carol Kane (Tom’s Mother), Michael Vartan (Scott), Bitty Schram (Lauren), Jean De Baer (Suzanne DeMarco), Elizabeth Franz (Aunt Lucille), Mark Margolis (Philip DeMarco), Edoardo Ballerini (The Job Interviewer), Matthew Faber (Jared), Robin Morse (Sylvie)

Production Notes

“The Pallbearer” served as a star vehicle for two newcomers at the same time – David Schwimmer, who had enjoyed success on television with Friends”, and Gwyneth Paltrow, equally successful with a breakthrough performance in “Seven”. In “The Pallbearer”, they are falling in love under circumstances only Hollywood could come up with. Paltrow agreed to star in “The Pallbearer” as a deal to also play the female lead in Miramax’ upcoming adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Emma”. The supporting roles are cast with exceptional young actors, who don’t get anything to do. This includes Michael Rappaport as Tom’s best buddy, as well as Michael Vartan and Toni Collette (who showed up on “Emma” as well) as a befriended couple and the voices of wisdom.

Reviews were mixed upon the film’s release. Roger Ebert gave it three stars, writing, “The Pallbearer is a goofier, gloomier trek across some of the same ground covered in The Graduate, with Schwimmer in the Dustin Hoffman role. The filmmakers must have subjected the 1967 classic to minute scrutiny. And yet the movie is not simply a retread; it has its own originality and tone and a quirkier sense of humor, and the central role is ideal for Schwimmer’s hangdog charm. Entertainment Weekly wrote a favorable review, stating that “by the end of The Pallbearer, we’re finally seeing David Schwimmer without his gawky-boy mannerisms, and, for the first time, he looks like a real actor.”