Saturday, November 27, 2010

Stand By Me

Stand By Me is another one of those movies I've seen chunks of but never sat down and watched until now. And it's good! Rob Reiner knew how to direct mature movies that would be interesting to people of many different ages. It takes place mostly at the end of the 50s, but it still has a timeless quality that should remind anyone of summer vacations spending time with friends, especially if they lived in a rural area. The main character is Gordie, played by Wil Wheaton as a kid a couple years before Star Trek: The Next Generation and Richard Dreyfuss as an adult and the narrator. After learning that his childhood friend was killed in a restaurant, he decides to write down the story of a watershed moment from his youth, where he and his buddies walked through miles and miles of countryside to find the body of a local boy who's been missing.

The other three friends are played by River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, and Jerry O'Connell, and while they tend to be more famous for why they don't have careers than the careers themselves, it's remarkable how they're all still recognizable names 24 years later. I don't think that usually happens with kid actors. The older teenager characters are occasionally recognizable too, with Kiefer Sutherland playing the biggest jerk in town and antagonist and John Cusack in flashbacks as Gordie's deceased older brother, and the only one in his family who seems to care about him. Everybody does a pretty good job, and it's noteworthy how the kids all manage to act like real twelve-year-olds without getting annoying.

So it's sort of like a small-scale road movie as they wander along train tracks, over bridges, and through forests looking for where one of them heard his older brother describe the body's location. Their relationships are as realistic as you'll see when it comes to adolescent American males, always poking fun at each other and sometimes getting violent, but obviously still affectionate and understanding. O'Connell doesn't really get an opportunity to be dramatic, but the other three all have moments of vulnerability that bring them closer together as they use the body as a goal to get through their troubles. The movie is often funny and touching when it wants to be, and while the story sort of sweeps some of the difficulties under the rug by the end, it's still a good story and a definite piece of Americana. Apparently the Stephen King story that this was based on was quite a bit harsher, but the movie didn't need to be to work.

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