Once upon a time, four girls were best friends in high school. Like many young friendships, these four grew apart, drifting in different directions by senior year. But only 3 of them make it to graduation. Honor (Arden Cho) dies of an illness she kept from them, and leaves behind final wishes that they should retrieve the time capsule they once buried together and complete the bucket list found inside.
Piper (Meghan Rienks) is a popular girl (translation: mean girl) now, a party girl for whom the party never stops thanks to a water bottle filled with vodka that’s never not in hand. Isabella (Sasha Pieterse) is a social crusader, fierce in her beliefs, but vulnerable at home where her parents are divorcing acrimoniously. Sophie (Karrueche Tran) is the image of perfection, a straight A student and president of the virginity club, which she founded herself (and named only slightly more creatively). Even before we get to know their history through flashbacks, there are some pretty solid reasons why these young women might have grown apart. But grief is a powerful motivator and they resolve to complete the list, for better or worse.
High school is hard enough without throwing grief and guilt into the mix, and the movie is at its best when it’s dealing with these realities subtly with great character work from a cast who is actually (surprisingly) competent. But the tasks on the bucket list are wacky enough to be sitcom material, awkwardly ripe for trauma, painfully devoid of laughs. Their friendship is to be miraculously repaired through hardship even though it can equally be said that that’s what ripped it apart in the first place. Director Elissa Down confronts some jarring shifts in tone without enough of a plan, so even her good intentions can be sloppily offered.
The Honor List doesn’t live up to its name but is just watchable enough if you’re really jonesing for a potential tearjerker with a subplot of empowerment.