REVIEW: With Honors [1994]

“I’m ending our friendship”

With Honors is one of those films that I remember enjoying back in the day, but never could recall what actually happened in it, let alone what it was about. Sure I knew that Joe Pesci played a bum attempting to show Brendan Fraser what life is all about, but that was pretty much it. Watching it again, probably more than ten years later, I can safely agree with myself from back then on how good of a movie it is. The acting is great and the story, while maybe a tad too sentimental and emotionally manipulating, is enthralling enough to stick with the characters and feel for them and their plight in getting through college with an education, along with their souls intact.

A film like this makes you think about how good Joe Pesci used to be and regret that he has been out of the business for a while now. The guy never had the looks, the height, or even a voice that won’t start grating on your ears before he even opens his mouth, but the guy is fantastic. He plays Simon Wilder with heart and realism, a homeless man who has regrets, but also piece of mind, knowing what went wrong and living life for meaning not materialistic necessity. In exchange for warm meals from Fraser’s Harvard co-ed, he agrees to return the government thesis paper he is holding hostage. The paper is one that Fraser’s professor fully endorses, but in the end is just a pile of nonsense that he himself doesn’t believe in. Pesci must then try and make his young “student” learn how to see inside himself and realize that catering to those in power will never cause change or evolution in thinking.

Besides Pesci, the main principles all do wonderful as well. It is a shame that Fraser has since rode his career down the toilet by doing children’s fare and stupid comedies. Back in his heyday with this and School Ties, the guy showed he had some promise. Even the funny roles like Airheads worked, but unfortunately after that, he started to cash in the paychecks. Fraser shows that despite his jock physique, he has the ability to show inner intellect as well as a capacity to emit emotion. Some of the things that go on between he and Pesci strike tough cords and bring repressed feelings to the surface, but it is all a catharsis for both characters as they find out what it really is they need out of their own existences. As for the others, Moira Kelly makes you wonder what ever happened to her as far as film goes, Patrick Dempsey gives a performance with meaning while still keeping with his image of the day, and Josh Hamilton is entertaining enough to have made me see what else he’s done since, surprising me to find he was one of my favorite roles in last year’s comedy gem Diggers.

Throughout the film, you know that tragedy will soon hit and the tears will flow, however, that knowledge never detracts from what is happening onscreen. The writer doesn’t copout when he could have, and the emotionally resonant moments are so because he allowed them to be hurtful and real. Infused consistently with the drama, though, are many moments of nice humor. No matter how serious Pesci might play, he is still a goofball through and through. A brilliant example of this is when he sits in on a government lecture at the school. His quips are funny, but when the professor finally calls him out, he holds his own and proves that looks are most definitely deceiving. That scene is worth seeing the film all by itself and it encompasses everything that the story is trying to convey.

With Honors 7/10 | ★ ★ ★


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