With Honors (film)

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With Honors
With honors poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAlek Keshishian
Written byWilliam Mastrosimone
Produced byAmy Robinson
Paula Weinstein
Starring
CinematographySven Nykvist
Edited byMichael R. Miller
Music byPatrick Leonard
Production
company
Spring Creek Productions
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • April 29, 1994 (1994-04-29)
Running time
103 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Box office$20 million

With Honors is a 1994 American comedy-drama film directed by Alek Keshishian and starring Brendan Fraser, Joe Pesci and Moira Kelly.

Plot[edit]

Montgomery “Monty” Kessler is a senior majoring in Government at Harvard University and sharing a house with friends: art student Courtney, womanizing radio disc jockey Everett, and neurotic medical student Jeff. One night Monty is working on his senior thesis, which takes a pessimistic view of citizens on public assistance, when a power outage ruins his computer’s hard drive. When he rushes out to make a backup printed copy of his thesis, he trips on the street, breaking his leg, and drops his thesis down a grating that leads to the boiler room under Widener Library. There Monty finds a homeless man, resembling the writer Walt Whitman, burning his thesis and has campus police arrest him, but nobody can find the thesis.

In court, Monty learns the man’s name is Simon Wilder. Simon gets the worst of the charges against him dismissed, but is held in contempt, for which Monty pays the fine. Despite Simon’s anger over Monty’s having him arrested, they work out a deal: for every service Monty does for him, Simon will return one page of his thesis. Monty takes Simon to the house, letting him stay in a broken down van in the backyard.

Over time, Monty and Simon become close friends. Monty confides in Simon about his absent father and Simon helps Monty see poor people like himself as human beings. Simon also shows Monty his collection of stones, each one representing a significant memory from his life. Monty’s roommates begin to like the arrangement as well, with Courtney appreciating Monty’s newfound open-mindedness and Everett giving Simon wine in exchange for his repairing the van. Jeff, though, refuses to let Simon stay in the house’s basement on a particularly cold night because of his parents’ visiting. When Monty lies to Simon about why he can’t come in the house, Simon ends their deal and leaves.

While everyone goes home for Christmas vacation, Monty stays to put his thesis back together. One of Simon’s friends visits, hands over the thesis, and reveals where Simon is staying, but says he does not want to see Monty. Monty finds him living on the street, coughing and wheezing as a result of years of exposure to asbestos in the U.S. Merchant Marine. Monty agrees that Simon can live in the house and refuses his offer of a new deal. Simon gets disability benefits to help with the rent while Monty decides to completely rewrite his thesis. Courtney and Everett are supportive of Simon’s moving in, but Jeff angers Monty when he insults him.

Realizing the seriousness of his illness, Simon writes his obituary, which reveals that he left his wife and child to join the Merchant Marine. Though initially angry, Monty eventually forgives him and takes him as his guest to a campus pajama party. At the party, as Monty watches Courtney dance with another man, Simon helps Monty work up the courage to confess his love for her. Courtney reciprocates and the two begin a relationship.

Before he dies, Monty agrees to drive Simon to visit the son he abandoned, named Frank, despite the fact that doing so will delay his completion of his thesis. All the roommates, including Jeff, who has come to see Simon's humanity, make the long drive. Frank bitterly berates Simon for leaving him and when Frank’s daughter, Simon’s granddaughter, asks who Simon is, Frank says it is nobody. Before leaving, Simon adds a stone to his collection.

Simon’s condition deteriorates on the drive back to the house and the roommates stay up all night reading Walt Whitman to him before he dies. At his funeral, Monty tearfully reads Simon’s obituary where he refers to the roommates as his family and states that Monty ‘’will graduate life with honor and without regret.”

Monty meets with his haughty mentor, Professor Pitkannan, and explains why he changed the subject of his thesis to a more optimistic subject. Professor Pitkannan accepts his explanation, but tells Monty his lateness means that he will not graduate with honors. Monty thanks him for his mentorship. He also returns the Walt Whitman book to Widener Library, symbolically leaving Simon’s spirit there.

The roommates graduate and Monty begins his own collection of memory stones.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

The film was shot at various locations in Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, and Massachusetts, including the Harvard University campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The exterior of Winthrop House appears, but the interiors pictured are not that of actual Harvard houses, and the last scene of the movie was shot at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The buildings and surroundings were dressed up to look as if it were Harvard and many of the people in the final scene are Illinois students. The graduation scene was shot while the local climate in Illinois had not allowed for the trees to bloom leaves and so artificial branches and leaves were stapled on. All of the outdoor shots of Harvard's Widener Library had the University of Minnesota's Northrop Auditorium in that role. The scene in which Simon Wilder and Professor Pitkannan debate the role of the president in American democracy was filmed in Lincoln Hall at Northwestern Law School.[citation needed]

Reception[edit]

The film received predominantly negative reviews from critics. Review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes collected 25 reviews and gave the film a 16% approval rating, with an average rating of 4/10.[1][2][3] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 2.5 stars out of 4, praising the acting, but criticizing the "clichéd" plot.[4]

According to Box Office Mojo, the film grossed about $20 million in the U.S. It was #1 at the U.S. weekend box office between May 6–8.[5]

Year-end lists[edit]

Soundtrack[edit]

With Honors (Music from the Motion Picture)
Soundtrack album by
Various Artists
ReleasedMarch 22, 1994
GenrePop
LabelMaverick Records
Warner Bros. Records
ProducerVarious Artists
Singles from With Honors (Music from the Motion Picture)
  1. "I'll Remember"
    Released: March 15, 1994

The soundtrack was released on March 22, 1994, by Maverick Records and Warner Bros. Records. It contains the U.S. No. 2 hit single and theme song "I'll Remember" by pop singer Madonna. She received nominations from the Golden Globes, Grammys, and MTV Movie Awards.

Seattle grunge band Mudhoney were asked to contribute a track to the soundtrack. In the liner notes from their compilation March to Fuzz written by the band, "They sent us a clip from the movie With Honors of some jock running through the snow with EMF's hit "Unbelievable" scoring the action. They said they were looking for an upbeat song like that for this part of the film. We told them that we had a bitchin' little instrumental that might work. They insisted on a song with words. So, I put some words on it and we sent down both versions, figuring they'd have to choose the instrumental. They didn't." The song, "Run Shithead Run," is included on the soundtrack but Mudhoney claims they never got another such request.[7]

The Pretenders' cover of Bob Dylan's "Forever Young" also appeared in Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home as one of the two versions of the same song that was played in the movie.

  1. "Thank You" – Duran Duran
  2. "I'll Remember (Theme from With Honors)" – Madonna
  3. "She Sells Sanctuary" – The Cult
  4. "It's Not Unusual" – Belly
  5. "Cover Me" – Candlebox
  6. "Your Ghost" – Kristin Hersh and Michael Stipe
  7. "Forever Young" – The Pretenders
  8. "Fuzzy" – Grant Lee Buffalo
  9. "Run Shithead Run" – Mudhoney
  10. "Tribe" – Babble
  11. "Blue Skies" – Lyle Lovett
  12. "On the Wrong Side" – Lindsey Buckingham

References[edit]

  1. ^ "With Honors (1994)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved August 30, 2021.
  2. ^ James, Caryn (April 29, 1994). "Review/Film; Some Collegiate Help for a Homeless Zany". The New York Times. Retrieved June 9, 2012.
  3. ^ Travers, Peter (April 29, 1994). "With Honors". Rolling Stone. Retrieved June 9, 2012.
  4. ^ "With Honors". RogerEbert.com. Ebert Digital LLC. April 29, 1994. Retrieved September 23, 2017.
  5. ^ Welkos, Robert W. (May 10, 1994). "Weekend Box Office: 'Honors' Tops in a Lackluster Bunch". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 8, 2012.
  6. ^ Howe, Desson (December 30, 1994), "The Envelope Please: Reel Winners and Losers of 1994", The Washington Post, retrieved July 19, 2020
  7. ^ SongMeanings. "Mudhoney - Run Shithead Run Lyrics". SongMeanings. Retrieved February 26, 2019.

External links[edit]