Honor Society is a charming young adult comedy that can best be described as what if John Hughes were to have written for Gen Z.
Spider-Man and Mare of Easttown‘s Angourie Rice is coming into her own as a leading actress. Earlier this year, she starred as the younger version of Rebel Wilson’s character in Senior Year. This time around, she has lead billing opposite Stranger Things‘ Gaten Matarazzo. This is the first live-action film role for the Stranger Things star as his two previous films were voice roles.
Honor Rose (Angourie Rice) is a high school senior and plans on attending Harvard University. Enrolling at Harvard also means never having to return to her hometown again. The overachieving student is in the final months of her four-year high school plan and has everything under her control. Or so she thinks. George H.W. Bush High School guidance counselor Mr. Calvin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) will recommend only one of four students. The three students standing in her way: Michael Dipnicky (Gaten Matarazzo), Travis (Armani Jackson), and Kennedy Smith (Amy Keum). Like any teen comedy, Honor puts together a plan to have the contenders in position to fail. All while having to put up with Mr. Calvin using his position of power to, well, do things that leave him without a job. He keeps pestering Honor to attend his musical performances, much to her dismay.
Taking care of Travis and Kennedy comes easy and they both show another side of themselves in the process. Honor figures out the best way of doing so and it works to her advantage. She knows that Kennedy is a playwright and so she joins the theatre club and recommends Kennedy’s play. Gary (Ben Jackson Walker) resists at first but he ultimately comes around when Travis becomes involved. Travis’s girlfriend isn’t happy about the idea of Travis being with another girl and so Gary decides that they should do it Shakespeare style and have him in the role. I won’t say anything more here because you have to see what happens!
It’s figuring out how to make Michael tank his midterms in which things become tricky so to speak. They both want out of their town and so getting Michael to tank is easier said than done. Honor even gets her friends, Talia (Kelcey Mawema) and Emma (Avery Konrad), in on the fun. But as I get into it shortly, she’s a different person around them than she is with the audience.
One of the most enjoyable things about watching this film is how Honor is always breaking the fourth wall. Her friends and family see her in one way while the audience gets to see her true self–this also includes the change in her voice when she talks to the camera. The fact that the camera is in on what’s happening is what makes this film all the more entertaining. Even if she’s vulnerable, you wouldn’t know it from how she interacts with her friends. This is one of those films where you might find yourself pleasantly surprised in watching.
Every now and then, you discover a film on streaming that you wish you could have seen in theaters. This is certainly one of those films. Because it’s a direct-streaming film, you’ll never have the communal experience of watching it. It’s a downside of the new era that we’re living in. Factoring in today’s habits, Honor Society would probably just be a mild performer at the box office at best. It’s within the same vein of storytelling as the 2004 classic, Mean Girls. In a another era, it could have probably made around $100 million at the box office. Alas, things change and people change their habits. What I will say is that this 97-minute comedy commanded my attention from start to finish in the comfort of my apartment.
What surprises me the most about the film is that it’s screenwriter, David A. Goodman, is a former EP of Seth MacFarlane’s Family Guy and currently EP’s The Orville. In knowing this and his TV work in general, you’d be surprised by what you’re watching on screen. One, it’s no Orville. Two, this film is as far from adult animation as things can get! It’s a script that draws on his own personal experience of watching his daughter applying for college. He also injects his own sci-fi background into the film because he does. Michael Dipnicky and Honor both bond over Doctor Who fan in the film. At the same time, the comedy persona comes through by way of Bloody Mary.
This is a solid feature directorial debut for Oran Zegman following a number of short films, including the award-winning Marriage Material. If you ask me, Honor Society is a home run and I look forward to seeing what Zegman directs in the years to come.
DIRECTOR: Oran Zegman
SCREENWRITER: David A. Goodman
CAST: Angourie Rice, Gaten Matarazzo, Armani Jackson, Amy Keum, Ben Jackson Walker, Kelcey Mawema, Avery Konrad, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Paramount+ launched Honor Society on July 29, 2022. Grade: 4/5
Please subscribe to Solzy at the Movies on Substack.