Stand by Me It’s the summer of 1959 in Castlerock, Oregon and four 12 year-old boys – Gordie, Chris, Teddy and Vern – are fast friends. After learning of the general location of the body of a local boy who has been missing for several days, they set off into woods to see it. Along the way, they learn about themselves, the meaning of friendship and the need to stand up for what is right.
Stand By Me is yet another one of the stories made into a movie from the author who has had more stories made into movies than any other author in history, Stephen King. Clearly, the central character here is Gordie Lachance, from whose point of view the story is told and who obviously symbolizes King himself, given many of his characteristics as well as some of the content of the film. This movie is literally filled with actors who have achieved varying degrees of success over the years, such as Jerry O’Connell, who played Vern, River Phoenix, who could have been bigger than Leonardo DiCaprio if he hadn’t died, Corey Feldman, who has grown into an unenviable but visible existence, Kiefer Sutherland, who has become an excellent and very well known actor, John Cusack can be seen in a small role as Gordie’s late brother, and of course, Richard Dreyfuss, who played the narrator and Gordie as an adult, has remained famous but originally achieved fame more than a decade before Stand By Me was filmed or the original story was even written.
Stand By Me takes place in the summer of 1959, the general time period that Stephen King is most skilled at presenting, and four friends set out to find the body of a kid who was killed by a train, hoping to find what they predicted would be astronomical fame. Unfortunately, the town’s bullies are also out to find the body for the same reason, which leads to the films ultimate final climax. Even though this is a very clever story with which to tell a fall from innocence story, it is the brilliant characterization and the incredible acting that really make this a classic film. It is extremely rare that a film comes along that stars young kids and is so moving and powerful. Also, every one of those kids is made three dimensional in creative and smooth ways, making you feel like you really knew them by the end of the film. Vern is the fat kid who always gets picked on, Teddy and Chris both have abusive or deranged fathers, not to mention Chris’s cruel brother, and Gordie is a young boy who lost his brother three months earlier in a violent accident and who has been largely ignored by his parents ever since. In one memorable scene, Gordie wonders how Teddy can be so enthusiastic about his father’s alleged military achievements when the man once held his head to a stove, nearly burning his ear off. Gordie is mystified because he could care less about his own father, who hadn’t laid a hand on him since he was three years old and got caught `eating bleach under the sink.’
Stephen King pokes fun at his own craft many times in the film, such as in Gordie’s vehement line, `F*ck writing. I don’t want to be a writer, it’s a stupid waste of time!’ Not only that, but there are also obvious references to his other works, such as when the boys first realize that no one brought food, and Teddy says, `This is great, what are we supposed to do, eat our feet?’ People who actually read instead of just lazily watching the movies will recognize this as a major part of the plot of another of King’s short stories, `Survivor Type,’ from which Cast Away borrowed heavily. And why don’t you people read these books? `The Body,’ which Stand By Me was based on, is only 148 pages long, you could read that in a couple of hours and the experience is totally different from a movie. It’s even more disturbing that `The Body’ was published in the same book (Different Seasons) as a couple of King’s other famous stories `Apt Pupil’ and, of course, `Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.’
Stand By Me is a story of how one event can unexpectedly change lives. It seems to be a story about friends and how important they are, but this possible theme is clearly dispelled in a line from the narration spoken at the end of the film `As time went on, we saw less and less of Teddy and Vern, until eventually they became just two more faces in the halls. It happens sometimes, friends come in and out of your life like busboys at a restaurant.’ Instead, the film is about learning from a life changing experience and actually making changes or modifying your life in some way because of it, and this is heavily emphasized at the end of the film.
Stand By Me is a timeless film. Stephen King’s story is skillfully brought to the screen under the direction of Rob Reiner, and the 1950s are brought back to life just as successfully as King so often does in his stories and novels, with the slicked back hair, the hot rods, and in the film, and excellent 50s soundtrack. There is so much more to this film than just the superficial story things about the characters and the story, but also about the tremendously talented man who wrote it all.