Whenever I think of With Honors (1994), I think it’s Robin Williams who plays the homeless character, Simon Wilder, not Joe Pesci. Maybe it’s because Williams’s character in The Fisher King (1991) looks kind of like Pesci’s in this movie. Of course, there’s no comparison when it comes to the performances: Williams is a lot less obnoxious than Pesci (oh boy oh boy oh boy). I’ll admit I’ve only seen With Honors a few times, and before I watched it again to write this column, I hadn’t seen it in a good ten years. It’s not one of my favorite movies, but I do enjoy its soundtrack, and I decided to write about it the other night after making a mix CD for a friend and listening to a Lindsey Buckingham song from the film.
Brendan Fraser plays Monty, a Harvard grad student who is obsessed with finishing his thesis and impressing the demanding Professor Pitkannan (Gore Vidal). After the hard drive on his computer crashes (watching a 1994 hard drive crash in 2009 is pretty hilarious), Monty heads out to Xerox the only physical copy of his thesis but loses it in the furnace room of the library. When he tries to retrieve it, he discovers it’s being held hostage by a homeless man named Simon (Joe Pesci), who lives in the furnace room. Simon agrees to give Monty his thesis back, but only one page at a time in return for certain favors.
Monty tells the police about the homeless man living in the library and they arrest him. But because he feels guilty about getting Simon thrown out of his home — and because he hopes he’ll have a better chance at getting his thesis back — he invites Simon to stay with him and his roommates, Everett (Patrick Dempsey), Courtney (Moira Kelly), and Jeff (Josh Hamilton). Simon annoys all of them at first, but he grows on them and eventually gives the roommates a different perspective on life.
The film was directed by Alek Keshishian, who also directed the Madonna documentary Truth or Dare (1991) and whose friendship with Madge resulted in her contribution of the film’s theme song, “I’ll Remember” (Keshishian directed the song’s music video). Some reviews I’ve read of “I’ll Remember” call it Madonna’s attempt to get back into the good graces of the American record-buying public after alienating a lot of them with her Sex book and Erotica album. The song reached #2 on the Top 40 in the spring of ’94 and garnered her Golden Globe, Grammy, and MTV Movie Award nominations.
Though “I’ll Remember” is probably the most well-known track from the With Honors soundtrack, the movie features some other great original songs and covers from established pop and rock artists. I already mentioned Lindsey Buckingham, whose “On the Wrong Side” sounds like it would’ve fit nicely on his 1992 album Out of the Cradle. Other tracks I love include Kristen Hersh’s “Your Ghost,” Belly’s cover of Tom Jones’s “It’s Not Unusual,” and the Pretenders’ “Forever Young.” I’ve compiled the entire official soundtrack album, which is out of print, and included two additional tracks from the film.
The Cult – She Sells Sanctuary [Butch Vig Mix]
Belly – It’s Not Unusual
Kristin Hersh – Your Ghost
Mudhoney – Run Shithead Run
Grant Lee Buffalo – Fuzzy
Duran Duran – Thank You
Nat “King” Cole – The Christmas Song
Django Reinhardt – Dream of You
Babble – Tribe
Lyle Lovett – Blue Skies
Pretenders – Forever Young
Madonna – I’ll Remember
Lindsey Buckingham – On the Wrong Side
Candlebox – Cover Me