From Awesomeness Films (You Get Me, Spontaneous, Netflix’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series) comes Honor Society, a teen movie that’s darker than expected. Considering how annoying the film’s smug trailer was, I appreciated this unexpected edgier approach. However, the execution is imperfect and isn’t nearly as measured as it should be.
Angourie Rice (last seen in Netflix’s Rebel Wilson vehicle Senior Year) plays the titular Honor, a calculated high school senior who has meticulously carved a path towards her post-secondary career. We know she’s really serious when she reveals she has known her guidance counsellor’s connection to Harvard since ninth grade. Honor puts on a façade at school; siding with the right cliques, using people left-and-right for her own gain, and secretly resenting adults who have seemingly failed to achieve their own dreams. In this final year of high school, she locks in on a coveted reference and narrows down her competition to three other students (including nerdy introvert Michael played by Stranger Things’ Gaten Matarazzo in a minor yet solid departure).
Honor Society proudly wears its recent teen movie influences (I thought the movie resembled Easy A or The DUFF), and welcomes viewers to compare Honor to other young and conniving anti-heroes (notably Rushmore’s Max Fischer and Election’s Tracy Flick). However, the latter comparisons walk a fine line that director Oran Zegman and screenwriter David A. Goodman end up falling victim to. Fischer and Flick may have exploited people, but they usually felt remorse or regret almost immediately. Honor is fully aware of how cynical and mean she is, and Angourie Rice’s persistent performance matches accordingly. For the audience, it’s a grind to put up with Honor’s shenanigans; especially when she is constantly breaking the fourth wall and commenting on how clever she is.
However, Zegman and Goodman pull back on Honor’s irritating tendencies when her personality starts to change, and she realizes how she can help her victims realize their full potential. The way the film positions Honor as an accidental saviour to others is not entirely convincing, but the results are uplifting in a way that dodges cheesiness. Honor Society sticks with its brand of dark humour, which makes for a consistent attitude even if the jokes are in poor taste. Superbad’s Christopher Mintz-Plasse playing Honor’s inappropriate guidance counsellor has some funny jokes, but his character’s long-term effect feels too creepy for this movie and feels like it’s drawing too much from his alpha male in Promising Young Woman).
Honor Society is decent enough. And although I can’t quite give it a hearty recommendation, I hope the right teens discover it on Paramount+ and connect with it more than I did.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie
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