Stand By Me * * * * 1/2

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Director: Rob Reiner.
Screenplay: Raynold Gideon, Bruce A. Evans.
Starring: Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Jerry O’Connell, Kiefer Sutherland, Casey Siemaszko, Bradley Gregg, Gary Riley, Jason Oliver, John Cusack, Marshall Bell, Frances Lee McCain, Richard Dreyfuss, Bruce Kirby, Andy Lindberg.

Predominantly known for his horror stories, writer Stephen King released a book in 1982 called “Different Seasons“. It contained four novellas, three of which, went on to become successful Hollywood movies which were very far from most other adaptations of his work. One was Bryan Singer’s “Apt Pupil” another was Frank Darabont’s “The Shawshank Redemption” and the third – originally entitled “The Body” – became Rob Reiner’s “Stand By Me“.

Four young friends, Gordie (Wil Wheaton), Chris (River Phoenix), Vern (Jerry O’Connell) and Teddy (Corey Feldman) go on an adventure together to find the dead body of a local boy who was supposedly hit by a train. By following the tracks, the friends’ journey becomes more about them and their personal struggles and soon, the boyish adventure becomes about their experiences of entering adulthood.

Delivered with a wonderfully nostalgic narration by Richard Dreyfuss and a good feel for 1950’s Americana, this inviting and honest, coming-of-age, tale captures the spirit of youth like very few others. Reiner’s feel for the time and the material is pitched so perfectly that you are completely transported back to this era. It’s imbued with a sublimely evocative soundtrack of classic 1950’s songs, ranging from; Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Great Balls of Fire” through Buddy Holly’s “Everyday“, The Chordettes’ “Lollipop” and, of course, Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me“. It’s this very attention to detail that truly brings this affectionate and sentimental film to life, while completely involving you in the trials and tribulations of the four, endearing, youths at it’s centre. The four youths in question are embodied with charm and nuance by Wheaton, Feldman, O’Connell and, especially, Phoenix. They are so natural in their deliveries that the failed careers they would go on to have didn’t merit the performances delivered here. Phoenix was the only one of the four who would receive critical praise, but sadly his life was cut short at the tender age of 23, making his performance all the more poignant.
Rarely has a film captured the innocence and growing pains of young boys on the road to manhood and rarely do you ever get such a rich and heartfelt delivery. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t experience the 1950’s; stepped foot on an Americana front porch or played mailbox baseball. What matters, is that you identify with the characters’ rite of passage and that it still perpetuates it’s relevance.

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A wonderfully rustic and nostalgic gem, that’s still as inviting and honest as it was on it’s release. This is one of those timeless cult-classic’s that will always find an audience to resonate with.

Mark Walker

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32 Responses to “Stand By Me * * * * 1/2”

  1. Nice review. I haven’t seen this for a long time but remember loving it. I really could identify with the characters.

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  2. Excellent post, I love this movie and the soundtrack is so good.

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  3. Great review. One of my top five favorite films. Such a classic. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  4. Hi, Mark:

    A large chunk of setting the mood, time and tone of a film is caught up in its soundtrack. And ‘Stand By Me’ excels in this arena. Buttressing a decent and believable tale of bonding, arguments, friendship and fear of the unknown (future).

    I put it along side of ‘The Big Chill’ in this regard. And for putting the spotlight on a batch of new, fresh faced talent. Though, I still prefer John Sayle’s ‘Return of the Secaucus Seven’ for overall story telling.

    Great choice and excellent dissertation!

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    • Hey Jack!

      Yeah, the soundtrack definitely plays a large part the movie. Despite not growing up at this time, I’m really drawn to the music back then. Wonderful stuff.

      As a fan of John Sayle’s I have to put my hands up and admit I’ve never seen “Return of the Secacaus Seven”. It’s on my watchlist now, though. Thanks for pointer there, my friend. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  5. I really need to watch this again, been too long. Terrific review :).

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  6. It’s a great one! Surely one of my favorite coming-of-age stories.

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  7. Definitely a nostalgic gem. I saw this years ago but definitely made an impression. It’s a shame River was gone way too soon. I saw The Kings of Summer recently that reminded me of this film.

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    • Yeah, as you know, I was a big fan of River Phoenix. I think he was actually my favourite actor at the time of his death. Such a poignant role this one.

      The Kings of Summer is on my list. If its anywhere near as good as this, then I’m in for a treat methinks. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  8. I cannot recall seeing this, but nice review… I might have to go check it out!

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  9. A great review of an undisputed classic ๐Ÿ™‚

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  10. Superb stuff my friend. I actually watched this for the first time the other day and thought it was great. It made me want to be a kid again and go hang out with my friends. Great performances from all the kids, I think most people can find at least one of them to relate to.

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    • Cheers Chris. Is that you just getting around to it? I just assume that everyone has seen it. Either way, glad to hear you enjoyed it. It does take you back, though, doesn’t it. The time and the place is very well captured but isn’t necessarily the films identity. It’s exactly what you just mentioned. It’s about reminiscing about your childhood and can appeal to almost everyone.

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  11. Classic film and one I definitely need to rewatch again.

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  12. Popcorn Nights Says:

    Nice review Mark, sums this up perfectly. One of my top 5 of all time. Aside from the first Star Wars film I can’t think of any that I’ve watched as many times as Stand By Me, and every time I see it I love it. Perfect film, great performances by all of the cast, and it has a great balance of humour and sadness. It was also the first film my family rented after my dad bought our first VHS player. My mum and dad were shocked at the swearing after years of just watching cut or overdubbed films on the telly!

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    • Thanks again Stu. I remember you saying it was a favourite. I absolutely love it as well. If truth be told, this was a review written from memory. I don’t normally do that. Perhaps on a rewatch it’ll get top marks. There’s no doubt that it would deserve them.

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