Stand By Me (1986)

“I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve.”

Stand By Me Poster

Synopsis:
A writer (Richard Dreyfuss) reflects on his adventures as a 12-year-old (Wil Wheaton) setting out with his buddies (River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, and Jerry O’Connell) to locate the body of a missing neighborhood boy.

Genres:

Review:
Before hitting blockbuster gold with The Princess Bride (1987), When Harry Met Sally (1989), and A Few Good Men (1992), Rob Reiner helmed this adaptation of Stephen King’s novella “The Body”. Framed as a bittersweet flashback film, the storyline centers on a sensitive young male who — like Timothy Hutton’s Conrad in Ordinary People (1980) — is reeling from the sudden death of his beloved older brother (John Cusack). A road trip is conveniently kicked into gear when Gordie (Wheaton) and his friends are presented with a coming-of-age quest they can’t resist: the rumored discovery of a classmate’s dead body, also sought after by a local bully (Kiefer Sutherland) and his gang. Reiner effectively evokes 1950s nostalgia through both period visuals and a finger-snapping soundtrack (including the popular Ben E. King title song); meanwhile, he balances the film’s darker themes and dicey situations (two of the boys are nearly killed by a train) with doses of levity — most famously in a gross-out storytelling sequence involving pie eating and copious vomit. However, unlike in Reiner’s later King-adaptation Misery (1990), the narrative here lacks a sense of either urgency or menace, making Stand By Me more of a sentimental reflection on boyhood bonds than a tale of adventure or deep personal growth.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • The exciting railroad bridge sequence
    Stand By Me Train

Must See?
No, though most film fanatics will likely be curious to check it out once, given its status as a cult favorite. Listed as a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.

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One Response to “Stand By Me (1986)”

  1. Not must-see – BUT…I seem to recall it was a kind of surprise (sleeper) hit when it was released – thus hitting a nerve with many for its nostalgia value. (As well, Phoenix and Wheaton were singled out, rightfully so, for their sensitive performances.)

    For me…having just seen it again – there’s a little too much lower-class hetero boy ‘repartee’ for real comfort, and some of the content is a bit gross (the pie-eating sequence, the leeches).

    It’s well-made, for what it is. It just doesn’t resonate much for me personally. I esp. don’t agree with what the last (written) line of the film implies: that the friends you have at age 12 are the best ones you’re likely to have.

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