Review by Cole Groth
Honor Society is one of the year’s better rom-coms, and perhaps one of the best Gen Z-led rom-coms yet, even with its extraordinarily weak ending. Angourie Rice, whose supporting roles in the Spider-Man: Homecoming trilogy and The Nice Guys are incredibly overlooked, has finally been given the chance to lead, and it’s a role that I hope Hollywood takes note of. In a sea of talented young actors throughout, she steals the show in every scene. In this film, Rice plays the titular Honor, who has a seemingly psychotic plan to earn a recommendation from her guidance counselor (played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse, who channels his Promising Young Woman creeper vibes more than ever) to get into her dream school, Harvard, by sabotaging her peers. This 97-minute long Paramount+ original was highly anticipated for me because it marks the first leading role in a film for Gaten Matarazzo, and while it met a lot of my expectations, it feels mean-spirited at times, which took away from my overall enjoyment of what’s otherwise a very well put together and authentic rom-com for my generation.
Let’s start with the things I liked about the film. The ensemble cast is extraordinarily good. As I mentioned earlier, Rice usually steals the show, but supporting performances from Miku Martineau and Armani Jackson also stand out as fairly impressive. At the beginning of the film, we’re introduced to Honor and her plan, and she immediately sticks out like she’s a psychopath. She’s willing to do whatever it takes to get this recommendation for Harvard, and I found it rather ridiculous that she would go to these lengths to get the recommendation, and it also seems a little inane that this would be her only route to get to this school. The premise is interesting, but it seems a little dumb. What isn’t dumb, and what I appreciated a lot, was what Honor did to try to sabotage her peers. Of course, it’s a little bit predictable what happens, but this is one of those films where the predictable elements are what makes it work. Honor’s desire to harm her classmates only leads to their lives improving, and without going into too much spoiler territory, this has one of the best gay subplots I’ve seen in recent memory. Overall, I enjoyed the story quite a bit, but what I didn’t love was the ending.
Again, I’m not going into too much spoiler territory, but the third act for this film seriously kills some of the good favor it earns in the first 70 minutes. While Honor’s plan at first seems borderline evil, we see how it changes over time, and the audience should come to terms, like I did, with how it’s not that mean of a plan. Toward the end of the movie, some twists are just cruel. Lessons are learned, but I didn’t appreciate the hypocrisy of the script, and how certain characters are portrayed differently, even if they are very similar in their goals. It’s hard for me to say that I love this film, but it’s possible that I just didn’t exactly follow scriptwriter David A. Goodman’s goal for the ending. I was mostly on board with it, but it seems like a strange departure from the very fun second act.
From a technical perspective, this is very well done. The fourth-wall-breaking moments from characters are hilarious, but not overused. The cinematography weirdly stands out at times, and I appreciated how even the most simple shots were composed to look rather interesting. It contributes to the thing I like most about the film: the authenticity. This feels like a story written by somebody who has just gotten out of high school, and I mean that in a good way. Characters aren’t over the top or far too mature for their age (although that is a running joke for Honor), and the cast seems to have this natural chemistry that I don’t see very often with high school comedies. The editing is fun and slightly frenetic, which makes this feel a lot briefer than its already brief 97-minute runtime. If you’re looking to witness Angourie Rice’s first leading film, of what I hope to be many, you might find a lot of enjoyment in Honor Society. Through some of the absurd beats and the slightly ridiculous ending, there’s a great film in here.
Honor Society will stream on Paramount+ starting July 29th.