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The One-Line Summary: Tom Thompson (David Schwimmer), a slow-to-get-started guy who still lives as home, gets a call to deliver the eulogy and be a pallbearer at his best friend’s funeral, even though he has no idea who that friend is, but while there meets up with his dream girl Julie DeMarco (Gwyneth Paltrow) and falls madly in love again, trying to find a way to get her do the same even though he’s sleeping with the dead guy’s mother.
The Two-Line Blurb: A kind of romantic comedy update of The Graduate, The Pallbearer falls a bit short but still maintains a silly charm as the love triangle between easy push-over Tom, the mourning and over-sexed Mrs. Abernathy (Barbara Hershey), and Julie plays out with all the familiar marks. Shimmer, at the time still hugely popular from his hit TV show Friends, doesn’t stray far from the character he made famous on that series, but is still able to carry a film, though helped significantly by a great supporting cast and a few cleverly written moments that surprise with some genuine emotions.
The Three-Line Set-up: Tom is a not the kind of guy who seems motivated by much, but when Mrs. Abernathy seems convinced that Bill, her dead son, who committed suicide, was his best friend, her sincerity and heartfelt plea for Tom to come be a pallbearer wins him over. Tom has nearly nothing to his name and has to borrow a suit, a theme that runs through just about everything in his life. When he arrives at a special gathering back in his home town, he his met with a house filled with grievers, many from his old high school, which doesn’t seem all that meaningful to him until Julie DeMarco strolls into the living room, her shoulders hunched, face saddened but just as beautiful as he remembers.
The Four-Line Moment: Julie is the girl Tom has always dreamt of, claiming he was in love with her back in school, and when he sees her, radiant in her sorrow, he knows he isn’t going to make much of an impression in the frumpy pants and loose pullover he is wearing, which is basically the same thing we was wearing back in high school. Standing next to his friend Scott (Michael Vartan), he is stressed by the idea that Julie will see him as he is and drags him upstairs to his closet, rifling through his wardrobe for a shirt. Of all the things that he needs to change, it is a shirt he thinks that will make the best impression, but of course, it is much more, as he discovers as their new relationship will attest. But it’s a start.
The Five-Word Review: Romantic comedy that just misses.