Maybe it was the great, eclectic soundtrack with the likes of Django Reinhardt, Herbie Hancock, Perry Como, Curtis Mayfield, Neil Young and Richie Havens, or maybe it was the dark and subtle bits of humor that pleasantly surprised me throughout the movie, but I really enjoyed this one.
We meet Tom, a forlorn twenty-something man-child still living at home and struggling to take control of his life, played by David Schwimmer of "Friends" fame. Tom gets a call from a woman who mistakenly believes he knew her recently deceased son. He goes along with it, presumably to save her the added grief of knowing her son had no close friends. Of course, Tom's accommodating nature backfires and he's asked to give the eulogy for a man he never knew. This sets up a scene with the kind of dark humor seen throughout the movie that audiences are either delighted with or immediately turned off by.
At the funeral, Tom meets Julie, his unrequited high school crush, played with genuine emotion and winsome grace by Gwyneth Paltrow. Thus begins two relationships that play out over the duration of the film --one with Grace, the bereft mother of the friend Tom never had, played by Barbara Hershey, and the other with Julie.
Yes, this movie owes much, in terms of plot and characters, to "The Graduate," with Hershey playing the counterpart to Anne Bancroft's Mrs. Robinson. But it turns out to be much more than just an update of the '60s classic. The audience really gets to know the inner turmoil both Tom and Julie are going through -- Tom, both for the guilt of becoming unwittingly involved with Grace, and for also being involved with Julie at the same time, and Julie, for being torn between striking out on her own to escape her overbearing parents and getting into a deep relationship with Tom.
There are a couple of sideplots going on with Tom's friends -- Michael Rapaport's character getting married to a woman his friends don't like, and Michael Vardan's married character, making a move on Julie, which obviously infuriates Tom. And Carol Kane as Tom's mom, is precious. In one scene, he is livid after she bursts into his room unannounced. After she receives a brief scolding for not knocking, she replies "I only wanted to see if you wanted some ice cream," to which he replies "A little."
Schwimmer nails the role, with his underplayed, tacit sadness about his so-far-failed attempt at making a responsible life for himself. And Paltrow, well, can she ever miss? Whether for the dark humor, spot-on acting, or superb soundtrack, this one is definitely worth a viewing.