Movie Review #19 / 250 : ‘STAND BY ME’

Spoilers Ahead!

First of all, welcome to the first movie review on the blog!  I’ve done 18 previously via Facebook as part of my 250 Movie Mission for 2012 (see the bar at the top), and these will all be archived on the site in time.  But anyway, digressing…

‘Stand By Me’ is a Stephen King adaptation with a difference.  Sure, there’s some basic Kingian elements knocking about (dysfunctional families, troubled childhoods, small town paranoia, etc) – but there’s no dodgy aliens or monster clowns in this one.  Rather than that being a huge disappointment, though, it’s actually kind of refreshing.  The story focuses on four lads on the edge of adolescence who go on an adventure to find the dead body of a kid on the other side of town.  Most of them have some sort of parental / family trauma which bleeds into their decisions, their actions, and how they help each other along the long journey ahead.  Essentially, they find the body, though a group of older lads arrive to claim the glory of finding the corpse first.  One of the younger kids points a gun at the teenagers’ ringleader (Kiefer Sutherland, no less), scares him off, and they all return home.

Doesn’t sound like much of a story, does it?

But that’s not the point.  It’s hard to put in words why Stand By Me resonates so well.  It’s definitely partly down to the acting talent (River Phoenix, Wil Wheaton, Corey Feldman, Jerry O’Connell) – hard to believe anyone can act at all at their age, but bugger me.  No lines fluffed, no reactions too false, no corpsing out of the picture.  It’s flawless.  The other facet to the film’s brilliance lies in its subtlety – these are four lads with a lot of harsh stuff both in their lives, and ahead of them – and this is essentially one of their last adventures before adolescence kicks in.  Perhaps it’s all a big metaphor for the end of innocence (that’s probably a very Kingian thing, to be fair).  The characters are solid, with decent backstories, and personalities that haven’t been cut directly out of a cartoon, and with that, some of the more devastating moments resonate far more than they should (the moment where Wheaton finds a leech in his underwear is actually fairly gruesome, though it could’ve been played for laughs).  The film depicts merely one day out of life – and while it’s a pretty major day, it doesn’t feel too over-the-top.

The end monologue by the narrator (the central character at an older age) is particularly devastating – recounting the untimely death of Phoenix’s character hits home particularly given the knowledge that Phoenix died at the age of twenty-three.  Prophetic?

I’ve found this review quite hard to write.  I’ve never heard a bad word passed around about this, and in all honesty, it really is one you’ve got to watch to understand.  Is that a cop-out?  Probably.  Hey, deal with it.

9/10 – Charming, devastating, and I think I had my heart warmed a little.  That doesn’t happen very often.  Well played.

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