We are all haunted by childhood's end, by the important things we must leave behind on our long and arduous journey into adulthood: the intensity of our loves, fears, and innocence; the games; the laughter and bravado; and the deep bonds of friendship. All these things and more are presented in Stand By Me, coming-of-age adaptation of Stephen King's semi-autobiographical story ,'The Body.'
The line between sappy and sweet is a razor-thin one. We've all been held hostage by coming-of-age stories that shamelessly strike us into submission. And while they might succeed in being a sweetest movie, we rarely feel good about it afterward. Then there's a movie like Stand by Me , which gets your tear ducts working honestly. Depending on your point-of-view, Stand By Me can be seen as either a coming-of-age story or a road trip. In reality, it's a little of both.
And, unlike typical road trips, this one involves travel by foot, and not over an extended distance. Yet, in many ways, the story is more about what the characters discover along the way than what they find at the end, and their "growing up" is accelerated by lessons they learn about life and death.
PlotThe story is narrated by the adult Gordie (Richard Dreyfuss), a successful writer who recalls the summer of 1959 when he was twelve years old in the small Oregon tow, called Castle Rock. The remainder of the movie, except for a brief epilogue, occurs in flashback. Gordie (Wil Wheaton) and his friends Chris Chambers (River Phoenix), Teddy Duchamp (Corey Feldman), and Vern Tessio (Jerry O'Connell) have their own little tree house where they play cards, smoke cigarettes, and crack jokes. It is the end of the summer and they need a really great adventure.
Vern tells them that he overheard an awesome secret: His brother Billy and his friends have stumbled upon the body of the missing boy. They have made a pact not to report their discovery to the authorities because the body was found while they were driving a stolen car. Vern excites his friends so much that they wish to be the first to get credit for the heroic deed, which, in a town like Castle Rock, will make them instant heroes.
As the four principals make their way through junkyards and leech-infested watery areas and along railroad tracks, they learn things about their inner thoughts. Each wrestles with his own demons.
AnalysisIt's an exceedingly simple premise that is, for the most part, utilized to positive effect by Rob Reiner, as the filmmaker does a superb job of establishing both the movie's small town atmosphere and the friendship between the boys. Reiner also became one of only a handful of filmmakers to have success adapting a Stephen King story although, like Frank Darabont and The Shawshank Redemption, Reiner found King's non-horror stories to offer more fertile ground.
The palpable chemistry among the four kids, especially the rock-solid friendship between Wheaton and Phoenix's respective characters, plays an instrumental role in keeping things interesting. River Pheonix's performance as an introspective, abused child, is a poignant remainder of his talent. Wheaton as the sensitive narrator, Feldman as the slightly crazy wild card, gives top performances. Stand By Me takes its sweet time getting to know the characters. The film plays around in its universe, allowing the audience to absorb the adventure as it unfolds. By the film's final reel, we will feel the nostalgia and sense of loss the characters feel themselves.
The film shows how all these individual weaknesses could be overcome in a group context. How primary relationships, with their social support, intimacy, the “we” feeling, can function as safety valve in counterbalancing personal problems. Only when the friends are really together,” their problems are manageable, if not curable.
Most importantly, Stand By Me has stood the test of time, and remains one of those rare films that shows no rust from age. The richness of its design, densely woven from human emotions and character interaction, ensure it will never lose that relevance. If you've yet to experience this timeless classic, please do so now.
Stand By Me is both an ode to youthful friendship and a lament for the loss of that precious bond between grown men.
Stand By Me - IMDb