Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Stand by Me: Movie Review

I didn't see Stand by Me in the theater, and while I've seen the gist of it on television, as I mentioned it in my recent Stephen King On Writing book review, I decided I should see the film in full. Also, knowing the setting, I expected that King would capture the milieu of late 50's America as few can, as I'd read do so in 11.22.63 and On Writing

In doing a bit of research, I read that King claimed that this was the first satisfactory translation of one of his books into a film. Hats off to the screenwriter who remained loyal to a strong story well told. The film really captures the goofiness of adolescent boys and of the era. Boys are weird creatures, given to bizarre beliefs, strange rites, and volatile emotions. The film captures this sense. The film works because the boys range from smart-ass know-it-alls to tearful little pups in the course of one scene to the next, as boys that age would. The strange fascinations of seeing a dead body (one of their peers), gaining fame, and claiming turf are all captured. Also captured is the adolescent boy infatuation with girls and grossness (the barf scene). This isn't adolescence seen through a gauze lens, it's adolescence as a rite of passage in 1959, as the boys get ready to go into junior high. 

The end is touching because the boys know that they will be split apart by the segregation to come. Three of them see themselves as headed into endless shop class, while the young writer (the King character you could posit) will go into the college track. In our junior high they tried to hide the tracking by not putting the "A" students in section 7A, but in section 7B instead. We were fooled for about two seconds. The "F Troop" (the title of a popular TV series at the time) knew who they were. But as the narrator reflects, it meant the end of friendships and bonds that had been forged across social boundaries, of oaths and secrets that each held dear. I had friends like that, and I share that sense of loss that you don't know quite what to do with. It's awkward at a time when everything in your life can seem awkward and unwieldy.

The young actors have the look and feel of the time and their age. Credit goes to director Rob Reiner as well as the actors for those outstanding performances. It's a fine film, well deserving of the praise it received. It's not all fun and games, although that abounds with little parental supervision. It was wilder time, in some ways more innocent, and in other ways more foolish. King and these film-makers have explored it well.

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