Stand By Me (1986) was one of those magical movies about growing up that might come along only once in a lifetime. Stand By Me takes place in the Summer of 1959 and was based on the short story The Body, written by Stephen King. The story and the movie are a rare non-horror ode to boyhood friendships. This story was beautifully adapted for the screen by Rob Reiner and the screenwriters Raynold Gideon and Bruce A. Evans. No less impressive was the acting of the quartet of youngsters and that of one unforgiving villain, Ace, played brilliantly by Keifer Sutherland.
This tale of friendships and adventure was narrated by Richard Dreyfuss, who was a grown-up Gordie (Wil Wheaton) and was set in the beautiful Oregon scenery. The gang of four incubating adolescents were just hanging out in their tree-house, smoking, playing cards and trying to act tough, when Vern (Jerry O’Connell) dropped a bombshell on the group; He had discovered a dead body! This revelation was a significant opportunity for the youngsters who had not yet achieved kid-dom fame. Even mundane achievements were important in a small town that contained older, meaner, and more hostile hoodlums.
After a very tense dust-up with a couple of the town bullies, the adventures of the quartet began in earnest with the quest to find the dead body. It was during this journey that the very essence of this movie was revealed. Through intimate one-on-one and group conversations, disturbing details were revealed of how all four of these young men had been horribly failed by the adults in their lives. Save for Gordie’s older brother Denny, (John Cusack), who was DEAD, every other parent, adult, older brother or peer, were hostile towards the quartet of young boys.
The cruel indifference shown to him by his parents was obviously devastating to the young Gordie. They were still mourning the death of his brother, and could not be bothered with Gordie, who was still alive. Every comment from his parents or from other adults like the shopkeeper seemed to be measured for maximum damage. He was a sensitive and impressionable child, and he was told that he could never measure up to his deceased brother.
The stories of the other 3 boys were even more tragic as we learned of betrayal from trusted adults, and ridicule from other schoolmates. Teddy Duchamp’s situation was the most disturbing and heart-breaking as he was still fiercely loyal to a deranged father in spite of nearly being killed by him in a fit of rage. Chris’s older brother Eyeball stood idly by and smirked while Chris was being abused by Ace, who threatened to put out a cigarette in his eye.
Oh, man, if this movie didn’t make you purple with rage it had you crying like a little baby. There was redemption, however, as the boys had to rely on each other for solace, guidance and healing of their grievous emotional scars. The horrible abuse and cruelty from the adults was equally matched by the boy’s love, loyalty, empathy and compassion for each other. River Phoenix was magnificent as Chris Chambers and was a born leader.
I Wish the hell I was your dad. You wouldn’t be goin’ around talkin’ about takin’ these stupid shop courses if I was. It’s like God gave you something, man, all those stories you can make up. And He said, “This is what we got for ya, kid. Try not to lose it.” Kids lose everything unless there’s someone there to look out for them. And if your parents are too fucked up to do it, then maybe I should.-Chris
Just wow. Later in the movie the roles were reversed as Chris tearfully related how he was betrayed by an adult who should have been protecting him. Instead, she let him take the rap and threw him under the bus. Even the hilarious campfire story told by Gordie related the cruelty and bullying that was bestowed by the adults and other students. As the story progressed and the plot was revealed, and the schadenfreude was delicious and deserved. The fantasy was the most memorable scene in the movie…well, that and the showdown at the end.
I can’t say enough about the acting of these young kids. For the most part they had no acting experience at all, but the passion and depth of feeling they portrayed was amazing. There have been some other great child acting performances like Haley Joel Osment in The 6th Sense, Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver and Natalie Portman in Leon: The Professional. River Phoenix, who tragically died at age 23, was right up there with them. Stand By Me is one of the greatest, if not the greatest films ever made about growing up and coming of age.
Oh, and before I go, I just have to mention the soundtrack. It is just one of the greatest ever. The movie was made in 1986, but set in the 1950’s. Get a load of these tunes, I did the work, so just click and enjoy:
Stand By Me Soundtrack:
- Everyday – Buddy Holly
- Let the Good Times Roll – Shirley & Lee
- Come Go With Me – The Dell Vikings
- Whispering Bell – The Dell Vikings
- Get a Job – The Silhouettes
- Lollipop – The Chordettes
- Yakety Yak -The Coasters
- Great Balls Of Fire – Jerry Lee Lewis
- Rockin’Robin – Bobby Day
- Who Wrote the Book of Love – The Monotones
Quotes and one-liners (Oh, man, are you kidding me?):
- “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?” -The Writer
- “Alright, alright, Mickey’s a mouse, Donald’s a duck, Pluto’s a dog. What’s Goofy?” -Gordie
- “This is my age! I’m in the prime of my youth, and I’ll only be young once!” -Teddy
- “Yeah, but you’re going to be stupid the rest of your life.” -Chris
- “Suck my fat one, you cheap dime-store hood.” -Gordie
- “What are you going to do, shoot us all?” -Ace
- “No, Ace. Just You.” -Gordie
- “It was weird to me how, then, Teddy could care so much about his father, who practically tried to kill him. And I couldn’t give a shit about my old man, and he hadn’t laid a hand on me since I was three! And that was for eating the bleach under the sink. ” -The Writer
- “Jesus H. Bald-Headed Christ!” -Teddy
- ” I know who you are. You’re Teddy Duchamp. Your dad’s a looney. A looney up in the nuthouse in Togus. He took your ear and he put it to a stove and burnt it off. ” -Milo
- “I’m going to rip your head off and shit down your neck!” -Teddy (hysterical)
- “Boom-Baba-Boom-Baba-Boom” -Crowd (when Lard-Ass walks on stage)
- “He was covered with five pies worth of used blueberries. The women in the audience screamed. Bossman Bob Cormier took one look at Bill Travis and barfed on Principal Wiggins, who barfed on the lumberjack that was sitting next to him. Mayor Grundy barfed on his wife’s tits. But when the smell hit the crowd, that’s when Lardass’ plan really started to work. Girlfriends barfed on boyfriends. Kids barfed on their parents. A fat lady barfed in her purse. The Donnelley twins barfed on each other, and the Women’s Auxiliary barfed all over the Benevolent Order of Antelopes. And Lardass just sat back and enjoyed what he’d created-a complete and total barf-o-rama! ” -Gordie (telling campfire story)
- “How do you know if a Frenchman has been in your yard?” -Chris
- “Hey, I’m French, O.K.” -Teddy
- “Your garbage cans are empty and your dog’s pregnant.”
- “Is it me, or are you just the world’s biggest pussy?” -Teddy (to Vern)
- “Want to see a dead body?” -Vern
- “The kid wasn’t sick. The kid wasn’t sleeping. The kid was dead.” -The Writer
- “Piss up a rope! -Gordie
Special Ruthless Ratings -or- Things I learned from Stand By Me
- Movie, acting directing, soundtrack, DVD extras: 10.0/10.0
- If you are a growing boy its hard to eat on 7 cents, even back in the 1950s.
- Railroad tracks are dangerous, but in movies you can always outrun a train.
- We still don’t know whether or not Goofy is a dog, since he drives a car.
- When Ace states his position, he probably wants you to get in the fucking car.
- If you see someone barfing up copious amount of purple pie, you will also vomit up purple pie even though you have not been eating purple pie.
- Pinky swear outranks even sending your own mother to Hell if you lie.
- There is no such thing as an unloaded gun.
- Leeches really like big fat ones.