WITH HONORS. Directed by Alek Keshishian; written by William Mastrosimone; produced by Paula Weinstein and Amy Robinson for Warner Bros. Starring Joe Pesci, Brendan Fraser and Moira Kelly. Rated PG-13.
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As a public service, I must give you some information that's not apparent in the trailers for this movie.
In them, it appears to be a warm comedy, which it is, partly. Pesci is in fine wisecracking form as a homeless man, and the houseful of Harvard seniors he falls in with are appealing, witty kids.
But what the previews don't tell you is that With Honors is a first-class tear-tearjerker as well. And, speaking from previous experience (I once saw Terms of Endearment with no Kleenex—don't ask me how I survived!) I feel that's something you should know. Be sure you take the proper supplies to the theater!
Monty (Fraser) is a much-too-serious student obsessed with turning in an impeccable senior thesis and thus qualifying to graduate "with honors." Through an almost-believable set of circumstances (someone that smart would have backed his computer work up on floppy disks, after all) his only copy of the paper ends up in the hands of Simon (Pesci) who is spending the winter in the basement of the Harvard library.
After having Simon evicted in a desperate search for the thesis, Monty makes a deal—he'll get one page back for every favor he does for Simon, starting with finding him a new place to stay.
What happens from then on is predictable, but handled so well by the cast, especially Pesci and Fraser, that no one could mind. Simon and Monty become friends, with both of them learning a lot about what's really important in life from each other.
Monty's housemates are an engaging group, too, mostly providing comic relief and a nice little romantic sub-plot. And Gore Vidal turns in another brief but effective performance as Monty's eminent, but rigid, thesis advisor.
Two-thirds of With Honors delivers the witty comedy that its previews promise. And, for those who appreciate such things, the last 1/3 makes an equally high quality, several-hankie tear-jerker. Don't say I didn't warn you.
May 18, 1994