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"Stand By Me" (1986): A Retrospective Review

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Lee has a bachelor's in English Lit. She loves analyzing fiction and obsessing over books, film, and television.

Stand By Me.

Stand By Me.

Stand By Me is a 1986 drama "coming of age" film directed by Rob Reiner (yes, o' dude from All in the Family) and based on Stephen King's novella The Body.

I'm not a King fan (I find his faux woke BS really annoying and most of his stories repetitive and derivative), but I will admit that a lot of his older stories are engaging.

A still from the film.

A still from the film.

Wil Wheaton is Child Gordie; Richard Dreyfus is Adult Gordie, credited as "The Writer."

Wil Wheaton is Child Gordie; Richard Dreyfus is Adult Gordie, credited as "The Writer."

The protagonist and narrator is Gordie Lachance, an aspiring writer, and King's self-insert. He is a nerdy and sensitive boy whose brother recently died in a car accident. As a result, his parents are still heavily grieving when the story begins. This makes it easy for him to slip away with his friends, as his parents aren't paying much attention to him in the first place.

As the protagonist, the story is told from Gordie's perspective and Gordie's perspective alone, something which I really enjoy because it gives an ounce of mystery to the other characters.

We never really know what's going on in the heads of the other boys and instead must rely on Gordie to guess for us based on what he knows of them. This really does wonders for the story because the audience never knows what the other characters might decide to do.

Most of King's books are singular perspectives from what I recall. I haven't read much of his stuff (not a fan of The Magical Negro, seeing the n-word over and over, or of children having sex).

A still from the film.

A still from the film.

Chris Chambers (River Phoenix) is Gordie's best friend.

He is written to subvert the trope of the small-town bad boy. People in town look down on him as a criminal in the making, while ignoring actual criminals like Ace Merrill (Kiefer Sutherland).

Chris is put forth as this tough, outlaw kid from a bad family who should be shunned at all costs when in reality he's a gentle, sensitive boy who is strong, knows how to assert himself, believes in keeping the peace, but will do whatever he must to survive.

A still from the film.

A still from the film.

Teddy Duchamp (Corey Feldman) is probably the most messed up kid in the group.

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While the other kids all have their problems, he has been physically and mentally abused by his father, who once held his ear to the kitchen stove.

He is wild, loud, and chaotic, and the fact that he stands in front of an oncoming train and has to be pulled away is a clear indication that he is suicidal. People rarely joke about suicide, and people who want to be alive do not play with their lives.

Teddy is nicely set up to be the one who snaps toward the end of the film, only to have our expectations subverted.

Vern (Jerry O'Connell) is probably the most "normal" kid in the group. His role in the story stems from the fact that he overhears his gangster brother talking about a dead body.

Vern is eager to see the body for himself, believing he'll be a hero on the news if he calls it in. The story opens with him propositioning his friends to join him.

Gordie.

Gordie.

As the protagonist, Gordie naturally gets the most backstory.

On the way to see "the body," the boys realize they were too short-sighted to pack food. They stop in a junkyard where a bloodthirsty dog lives (okay -- but WHY?) and flip coins to decide who has to go and buy food. Gordie loses and has to make his way to the corner store.

Once there, Gordie is relentlessly drilled about his dead brother by the store owner, which triggers a flashback. In Gordie's memory, we see how his father irrationally hates him, ignores him, and refuses to support his interest in writing.

Once again, I can't help but feel this was some kind of code for homophobia. Otherwise, why would Gordie's father irrationally despise him for pursuing an interest that isn't "manly" enough?

Gordie's brother is a football player and is doted on by his father for this, while Gordie is hated. As they are sitting at dinner, he asks his father to pass him the potatoes at least three times and is deliberately ignored.

Gordie's father also disapproves of his friendship with Chris Chambers but doesn't seem to care that he's friends with Teddy Duchamp, who is just as troubled.

While I don't believe that Gordie is actually gay, it's my belief that his father assumes him to be gay. And apparently, there are some people who agree.

Once Gordie buys the food, he returns to the junkyard to discover his friends have leaped the fence in order to avoid the dog that lives there. The dog is then sent after him. He imagines hearing the yard owner scream, "Chopper, sic balls!" and he runs and jumps the fence, escaping with his genitals intact.

A still from the film.

A still from the film.

The scene also defines Teddy as a character when the junkyard owner, Milo Pressman (William Bronder), confronts the boys about teasing his dog. He insults Teddy's father and mocks him for being in an insane asylum.

The scene shows how lost and in denial Teddy is when he speaks in defense of his abuser and is personally hurt about insults against the man who once held his ear to a stove. He completely loses it and launches at the fence in an attempt to attack the junkyard owner. As he is dragged away by his friends, Milo Pressman shouts that he's going to call all their parents -- except for Teddy's father, who is locked away "in the loony bin."

In the scene that follows, Teddy snaps at his friends when they try to comfort him. It makes sense: most people who aren't used to being loved don't know what to do with love when they finally get it.

A still from the film.

A still from the film.

A still from the film.

A still from the film.

A still from the film.

A still from the film.

Who thought it would be a good idea to give Vern a gun?

Who thought it would be a good idea to give Vern a gun?

© 2018 Lee

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