Stand by Me (R)
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This 1986 film is based on Stephen King's 1982 novella "The Body" (which I haven't read). I don't recall exactly when I first saw the movie, but I reckon it must have been sometime in the 80s, which is probably the main reason I consider it nostalgic. I'm afraid I didn't really remember anything specific about it, beyond the basic premise of some kids going to look for a dead body they'd heard about. And I guess I knew Wil Wheaton and Jerry O'Connell were in it. It's kind of weird that I didn't remember any of the other actors, because there were some others with whom I have since become familiar for other things. (Well, River Phoenix I mainly know for having died in the early 90s, when he was only 23. Although reading that now on Wikipedia, I'm a bit surprised, because I kind of thought he'd died even younger than that.) Anyway, aside from the fact that the movie came out when I was around 11 years old, another reason I find it nostalgic is that I had (actually, still have) the soundtrack on cassette tape. I'm sure I listened to it fairly often, as it has a bunch of good songs from around the time the movie was set. But I don't recall whether I got the soundtrack before or after I saw the movie. (I'd guess before, but my guesses aren't worth much.) And to an extent, I find it nostalgic because it's obvious King felt nostalgic about his youth, and because I know a lot of people think it's a great movie, and at least one or two of my own friends were fans of it when we were young. But watching it again, in 2016, I suspect I enjoyed it a lot more now than I did when I was a kid. Which is not to say I didn't enjoy it, back then, just that... well, I don't remember what I thought of it. However, I can now say it's the kind of movie that, as good as it is, kind of makes me a bit melancholy about never having had, you know, the kind of adventures that kids have in movies like this. I feel like my own childhood memories, and childhood friendships, rather pale by comparison. But whatevs, a good movie is a good movie.
So, it's set in the summer of 1959. Well, most of it is. The movie is bookended by scenes set in 1985, and the whole thing is narrated by a writer (played by Richard Dreyfuss), who is reminiscing about that summer when he was twelve years old. His name is Gordie Lachance (played as a child by Wheaton). He had three friends, and the leader of the group was Chris Chambers (Phoenix). There was also a kid named Vern Tessio (O'Connell) and one named Teddy Duchamp (Corey Feldman). Gordie, Chris, and Teddy are hanging out in their treehouse, when Vern shows up and tells them he had overheard his older brother, Billy, and Billy's friend Charlie, talking about a dead body they'd discovered, of a kid who'd been in the news a lot recently because he was missing. Anyway, Vern and the other three boys decide to hike along the railroad tracks to the spot Billy had said they'd found the body. The four of them think they could get famous for discovering the body. Meanwhile, Billy and Charlie (who have no idea Vern overheard them) intend to keep their discovery secret, because of the circumstances surrounding the discovery. (They had stolen a car.)
It takes Gordie, Chris, Vern, and Teddy about a day to get to the body. (They started out one afternoon, camped out overnight, and found the body the next afternoon.) But actually, this whole trek is really just an excuse to tell a story about the boys and their friendship. Gordie has some traumatic issues to work through. His older brother, Denny (played in flashbacks by John Cusack), had died a few months earlier. He was really popular, and obviously their father's favorite. So Gordie is upset about losing his brother, with whom he had a great relationship, as well as about the feeling that his father hates him and would rather it had been him that died, instead of Denny. (I don't think that's true, but certainly Gordie has reason to feel that it is.) Meanwhile, Chris believes he has no future, because his whole family is looked down upon by everyone in town. Chris feels he has no chance of escaping the fate of becoming a criminal, because no one would give him a chance to become anything else. (Also, his father is abusive, but Chris barely seems to mind that.) The centerpiece of the movie is basically Gordie and Chris being emotionally supportive of each other. There's also some stuff about Teddy being a bit crazy, but also being deeply defensive regarding public perception of his father being genuinely crazy (despite the fact that he was also abusive to Teddy). As for Vern, I don't think he really had any serious issues. I mean, he was a little bit overweight and... I see Wikipedia uses the word "timid." I guess that's fair. (Characters in the movie throw around the word "pussy" as an insult for just about anyone who drops the facade of masculinity for even a moment, but personally I see Vern's "timidity" as more like, you know, just being sensible.) All four boys are somewhat relatable, but I think Vern was the most normal and well-adjusted. (So it's kind of ironic that, from the perspective of 12-year-olds, he's the least... cool, I guess.) Well, also his brother is kind of an asshole, but his assholery pales next to that of Ace (Kiefer Sutherland), the leader of the gang Billy and Charlie are in. Speaking of which, Billy and Charlie eventually break down and tell a couple of guys from their gang about having found the body. And Ace decides the whole gang will go find the body again, so they can achieve the same kind of fame the four younger boys were thinking of.
And... aside from that, I don't want to divulge any details of the plot. (Though I will say that back in the present, Gordie's son has a friend, and while it's impossible to judge from just a few minutes on a random day, I don't get the feeling that those two had had or will have any adventures quite like the one Gordie had when he was their age. Which makes me feel just a little bit better about my own mundane childhood.) Anyway... I don't love love the movie, but I do think it's a pretty good story with some pretty good characters, and a good indictment of the sort of concept of masculinity that can become toxic, if one can't grow past it. (Case in point: Ace's gang.) And by the same token, a good argument in favor of being open about one's emotions and insecurities, and whatnot. (Chris's gang.)
Also I guess it bears noting that the fictional town where the boys lived was called Castle Rock, and the film's director, Rob Reiner, later co-founded a production company called Castle Rock, named after the town in the story.