Stand By Me – Review

Stand By Me (1986) 

Directed by Rob Reiner. Starring Wil WheatonRiver PhoenixCorey FeldmanJerry O’ConnellKiefer SutherlandRichard Dreyfuss.

I find incredibly difficult to review “Stand By Me” without being completely biased and detached, the way a real film critic should be. But then again, I am not a real film critic, I’m just a film lover (and a geek, of course!) and most of the times my response to a film is an emotional one: if it makes me laugh or cry or think, then it means that it worked on me; but if it makes me laugh and cry and think, then there is something more to it too!

Basically let me just tell you upfront: I adore this film!

I could recite it by heart and I’ve seen it more times that I care to admit, but since this week it’s its 33rd anniversary (JESUS, where has time gone!?), and I’m being bombarded left and right by articles and reminders about it, and since I am way too tired to watch anything else, I’ve decided to put it on again…  And you know what? It still works.

The word classic gets over-used these days. Any anniversary is an excuse to re-release any piece of junk that’s more than 20 years old. Most of those films carry that cheesy sense of nostalgia for the 80s, and that’s sometimes enough for them to appropriate a cult status. But when you look at them closely, you’ll find that they have aged quite badly, either technically (terrible matte paintings, visual effects or synthesized music) or stylistically (Their look, the clothes and the hairstyles people are wearing and the corny dialogue nobody seemed to mind so much at the time).

However “Stand by me” has the advantage of being a period piece (It is set in 1959) and its simple, subtle and honest depiction of the 60s not only hides away the cheesiness of the 80s but also adds a sense of timelessness to it. The film is 33 years old, but it could just as well be 35 or 45 … and yet it still relates all of us as if it was made yesterday…

I loved it at the time, for its sheer sense of fun, adventure and mischief and I love it today for its poignant look at the way we were… or rather the way I was. A childhood, so far gone but never forgotten.

It’s the ultimate coming of age story, set in the hazy, warm, sunny and dreamy landscape of Oregon, as 4 friends set out on a journey along the railway tracks, looking for the body of a missing boy.

The film is adapted by a short novel by Stephen King, from the book “Four Seasons” (The Shawshank Redemption was also adapted from the same book) and like all the best tales from King, finds its strength in the way the characters are fleshed out: rarely have teenagers so very well depicted like in “Stand by Me”. The contrast between the way they try to act as adults in front of each other, by smoking or swearing (“Go get the food, you morphodite”) and the way they reveal their real age by talking about the most childish and mundane things and yet making them sound profound and meaningful (MightyMouse is a cartoon. Superman’s a real guy!).

Behind all that, there’s a pure, sincere and real sense of friendship that permeates the whole film.

That line at the end on that computer screen “I never had friends like the ones I had when I was 12. Jesus, does anyone?” resonates in all of us and it’s one of the most poignant and truthful line I can remember in any film.

The interaction between the four young actors is the real power of “Stand By Me”: never for a moment you think they might be acting. Will Wheaton’s take as the sensitive Gordie is impeccable. The way he pauses before delivering his lines, how he smiles and looks at his best friends, how he proudly tells them the story of Lard-Ass, how he breaks down into tears at the sudden realization that his parents might hate him and finally how coldly threatens Kiefer Sutherland‘s terrifying bully, without even flinching (suck my fat one, you cheap die store hood!).

Both Corey Feldman and Jerry O’Connell are also spot on in their roles, bringing not only that amount of comic relief needed but also that sense of playfulness that kids at that age have (I don’t shut up I grow up, and when I look at you I throw up!)

But ultimately it’s River Phoenix that steals the show. The poignancy and sincerity he brings to the role of Chris Chambers is even more enhanced today by the ending of the film and as we see him fading away in the distance and we’re just left with a sour taste of what an incredible actor he could have become.

Beautifully photographed, as seen from the dreamy eyes of an adult (in this case Richard Dreyfuss) who’s obviously very fond of those memories, the film is also accompanied by the most wonderful soundtrack, a mixture of hits from the time, perfectly integrated into the film (like the moment the kids break into signing “lollipop“) and the actual score made up with a subtle slowed down version of the “Stand By Me” itself by Ben E.King

This film is a real little gem , a small masterpiece, dare_I-say, that works because of its charming and honest simplicity. You could easily argue against some of the clichés and the non-very-subtle depiction of Gordie’s family and the ever-too-perfect-dead-older-brother or obvious lines like “The town seemed different: smaller“, but it would be like arguing that Snow-White is a two-dimensional character, or that Nurse Ratched in “One Flew Over the cuckoos’ Nest” is an unbelievable bitch: basically it would be pointless.

Reiner’s  delicate touch seems effortless and invisible, but his imprint is all over this film. The man after all is a genius and every genre he touches turns to gold. Whether mokumentary (this is spinal Tap), Fantasy/Adventure “The Princess Bride”, Romantic comedy (“When Harry Met Sally”), Psychological horror (Misery), CourtRoom Drama (A Few Good Men).

And now this: a true undeniable classic, a nostalgic look at the way we were, in a time of innocence when friendship really meant something and when the most important question was “if Mickey’s a mouse, Donald’s a duck, Pluto’s a dog. What’s Goofy?


If you Agree, or disagree, do let me know and leave me a message.

If you enjoy this review, do leave a message (… Actually I guess you should leave one even if you didn’t…)

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12 Responses to Stand By Me – Review

  1. Leonardo says:

    You’ve made me wanna watch this movie again!…

  2. Pingback: Stand By Me – 25th Anniversary Blu-ray – Review (via moviegeekblog) | The Calculable

  3. Aiden R. says:

    The single best coming-of-ager ever made. Bonus points for having the best final line of all-time. Everyone owes it to themselves to see this movie. Great review, man. Right there with ya’.

    And so sad that this is still Jerry O’Connell’s best role.

  4. You are right. “Classic” is overused.
    I was just talking about this film with friends yesterday! Hard to believe the film is 25! Good ol’ Jack Bauer is fun to watch him from back then. haha.

    Films like these…boyhood films…always are enjoyable. Goonies, Hook, Little Rascals, Sandlot. Glad to see you enjoy Stand By Me! Nice review

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  6. “The word classic gets over-used these days.”

    You’re right, but Stand by Me definitely deserves it. Friendship is timeless (as the ending shows), and this movie could have been set in any time period, really.

  7. Pingback: The (Stephen) King of Movie Adaptations | It Rains… You Get Wet

  8. Emma says:

    I adore this film too. One of my favourites. The scene towards the end where River Phoenix fades out is so poignant now

  9. Kim says:

    :’) awesome review my friend good job

  10. Pingback: stand by me ou la camaraderie de stephen king | dudy's blog

  11. Derrick buford says:

    The best thing about this movie is that everybody from all age all race religion & sex can sit back & watch this movie & say that they
    know some peeps from their old childhood who act the same way these boys act & this movie does takes me back to when I kinda went through the same thing in my little coming of age life beautiful story line one of
    my must watch movie anytime anyday .

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