Rated: PG-13 for language. Reviewed by: Chris Release date: April 29, 1994 Released by: Warner Brothers
Talented young Brendan Fraser plays Monty Kessler, a Harvard senior struggling to finish his honors thesis. He drops it down a grate into the basement of the college's Widener Library, where a homeless man, Simon Wilder (Joe Pesci) has taken up residence.
Simon makes a deal with Monty, that he'll hive back one page of his paper for every night that he's given shelter in return.
Monty grudgingly lets him stay in a broken down van in the backyard of a house that he shares with three other students; hip radio D.J., Everett (Patrick Dempsey), uptight Jeff (Josh Hamilton) and cute, thoughtful, Courtney (Moira Kelly).
Simon and Monty begin to go everywhere together, to the library to read and reflect, to campus coffee shops, and Simon even follows Monty to a government class, where Simon disagrees with the professor (played with sharp humor by Gore Vidal), to the loud approval of the rest of the class. The two become almost inseparable, and Monty, who at first thought of Simon as a worthless bum, slowly comes to care for him as a close friend.
Dressed in tattered, dirty clothes with long hair and a mangy beard, Simon has lived a full life. Although he drinks some, it wasn't booze or drugs that led him along his unfortunate path, but because he was, to use his own words, "a quitter."
Other than a few outbursts and some unpredictable bathroom hygiene, Simon is often the voice of reason, and Monty and his roommates eventually let him share their house and friendship.
It's great to see a film about college kids where they're portrayed as hard working, responsible, caring young adults, instead of drunken goof-offs.
Pesci, who could have gone over the top with this colorful character, instead uses some restraint. He give Simon a little dignity, and Brendan Fraser, so terrific in School Ties, is refreshingly unaffected and natural. His fondness for Simon seems real and unselfish.
With Honors is a wonderful mix of humor and real emotion, and I was surprised at how much I was moved by the affection between these two unlikely friends.