Jump to content
devincf

Episode #92: STAND BY ME

  

159 members have voted

  1. 1. Is STAND BY ME in The Canon?

    • Darling, darling, stand by me. Oh, stand by me
      102
    • No
      57


Recommended Posts

Rob Reiner adapts Stephen King's novella into a feature film all about finding a dead boy. But does it find its way into the Canon?

Share this post


Link to post

An easy yes for me. I agree with Devin that it perfectly captures all the weird stuff in the world of twelve year old boys. I liked it when it first came out, and pretty much any time I stumble on to it on TV I have to watch it through to the end. I've wondered whether women could relate to it in quite the same way as men, and I think Amy made some good points about how it did not quite speak to her the way it did to Devin (and to all us male folk), and it at least made me consider whether we are elevating it to the Canon of great films because its just another example of male oriented standards. (Yay for the patriarchy!)

 

Nah, it's just a really terrific film that is spot on for what it tries to do.

 

I would like to know if there are any films that resonate quite the same way for women, as Stand By Me does for men in terms of capturing a particular period of childhood.

Share this post


Link to post

An easy yes. I think a "girl" version of this movie might be Ponette, which is also about the ways that children deal with death and I might like even better than this movie!

Share this post


Link to post

I re-watched this film, despite having seen it dozens of times as a kid. And wowee zowee, what a great film. As a matter of fact, this is the film Rob Reiner considers his best work. As someone who was a twelve year-old boy when they first saw this, and who is revisiting the film ten years later, it feels as real as a film can get. Reiner and the cast capture boyhood friendship so authentically. Most of their dialogue is so right, just focusing on inane banter and hangout conversations. The part where Chris is saying he wishes he was Gordie's dad feels right. I remember being twelve year-old and saying big, ill-fitting things that seemed profound at the time, but were just grasps at being a deep, adult person, much like when Teddy talks about how much he likes smoking after dinner.

 

Also, independent of Devin's reading of the film, this time around, I 100% got the same homoerotic vibe between Chris and Gordie. They do love each other very deeply. They don't just get along, but they allow themselves to be vulnerable with one another. When Chris fires off the gun and Gordie is upset, Chris doesn't just blow Gordie off. He stops him, grips him, and earnestly tells him that he didn't know the gun was loaded. Minutes later, after they run into Ace and Eyeball, they do that thing where they kick each other's butts, and they don't think anything about it. They have an intimacy with each other that the film is CLEARLY addressing. And you know what? I was sold by that ending. There's a romantic tension that the film plays so subtly that it's easy to miss, but Gordie and Chris love each other, 100%, on a level that they maybe couldn't articulate or express directly, but it's there. Also, if I remember correctly, the end of "The Body" has Gordie confessing that his work isn't all that well-received, but his books keep getting made into super successful moments, which I love.

 

Anyway, yes. 100% yes. This is a small, near-perfect film. It may even be the best Stephen King adaptation. I wish I had more to say about how well-paced it is, and how much I love the dynamics between all of the characters here. The only thing I'd say is that Amy seemed to have problems with the tone. For one, I like the shot of the dozens of holes. It's a great visual joke, and it lends to the next moment where Vern sticks his head up to hear his brother and his friend, and he looks like a gopher. It's a comedic moment that fits the character. The flow of the film flows with the characters, and it's always logical and real.

 

Also, having recently been a teenager, I don't find Teddy to be a bully. He's an annoying jerk, for sure, but I don't think he's being malicious. He's just fucking around. When Vern explodes at Teddy, Teddy not only doesn't retaliate, that outburst comes as an extension of the conflict of events within the film. Plus, these kids all pick on each other a little bit. Vern gets it the worst, but you know what? This whole movie happens because they go along with Vern's plan. They're not running trucks off the road in a game of chicken.

 

With that in mind, could we PLEASE work on getting female coming-of-age films in the canon? If Stand by Me illustrates the unique experience of being a twelve year-old boy among other twelve year-old boys, clearly there have to be other films that capture that for women and girlhood that aren't anime--because we're never getting an Only Yesterday episode, despite my constant badgering.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

honestly, I feel like anyone who watched this movie after the age of 14 can see that this movie for what it is: a nostalgia wank. hard no.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post

I think the strength of Stand By Me is the tenderness between Gordy and Chris, and I completely see some of the homoeroticism Devin mentions (if thats the word he used). I don't completely think it is the case, that there is anything romantic between them, but the fact that those young actors could achieve that level of tenderness is pretty moving to me. It's a movie that effects me, but falls short of shaking me up emotionally. So it's definitely a soft no for me.

 

It's also incredibly comforting to hear one person, let alone both Devin and Amy, say that STRANGER THINGS is "alright" or "fine". Some of the more blatant nostalgia pandering makes the world feel a lot more artificial and dishonest.Though I could imagine enjoying it more if I hadn't seen so many of its influences.

Share this post


Link to post

Okay! I've been composing my defense of Stand By Me basically since the first time I requested that Amy and Devin do a SBM episode. And I was in full panic mode when I remembered it came out today, because this movie is so dear to me and I was so sure that they were both going to hate it. And I listened to it and honed this response and here we go.

 

Getting this out of the way: Can confirm that Chris Chambers was a heartthrob to pre-teen Petra.

 

I knew that this was going to come up and I honestly thought it would be sort of a bigger discussion point -- Stand by Me is VERY boy-heavy, and in fact does not address women in any significant way at all in the film (and as noted, the only speaking part is Gordie's meek/grief-stricken mother). I hate to say that I don't think it matters, but ... it kind of doesn't? I'd much rather them make a streamlined, focused movie about boyhood than try to shoehorn in girl characters -- which, for the purposes of a coming-of-age film, often do little more than adding a sexual awakening for the boys and are rarely their own persons in any meaningful way. This is how I felt about The Kings of Summer, which a lot of people compared to Stand by Me when it came out; the girl in there was basically just a plot device for the two buddies to fight over to the point where I wish they hadn't included her at all. (But the fact that any group-orientated coming of age story since SBM came out is compared to SBM points to its presence in the culture and its canon-worthiness.)

 

Jumping off the boy thing, though: When I think about Stand By Me and my relationship to it, I don't consider this to necessarily be a "boy" movie. I saw this movie when I was very young and watched it pretty much anytime it was on TV (it was also one of the first DVDs I remember purchasing). It's probably in part because it focuses on prepubescent boys, and so often coming-of-age films are so reliant on the romantic/sexual aspects of growing up and "becoming a man" (or becoming a woman) that it glosses over these other very tactile, very universal components of growing into the world, like your realization of your own morality and the mortality of those around you. I remember being 8 or 9 and having what I can only describe as a panic attack in my living room one night as this wave of realization hit me that one day, my mom was going to die. And I stood there and sobbed to her about not wanting her to die while she stared at me, sort of bewildered and not quite sure how to comfort me. It's something that I don't see being addressed in coming-of-age films a lot. (Another reason it may be relatable is that the protagonist of the movie is a relatively feminine boy, who is soft and emotional and vulnerable.)

 

I also think that the way they deal with this event in regards to the four boys is very well done in the sense that they're all on different tracks heading in the same direction that don't stop at the same stations. (Sorry, more train metaphors.) They all experience this thing together -- the journey, the destination -- but it doesn't all hit them the same way. This was a profound moment for Gordie to see the dead body of a kid his age, and I think seeing this kid with the life knocked out of him created this sort of tangible through-way to dealing with Denny's death, which is sort of obvious thematically, but in a practical sense -- Denny's funeral was probably closed casket, and there's something different about this sort of abstract absence that's still felt around the house, vs. seeing this almost anonymous kid just ... dead. And that meant something to him in a way that didn't mean something to Teddy or Vern, for example. I think Chris felt it because Chris is an empath, and he felt it through Gordie, but as Devin said -- Vern probably remembers that trip as the best day of his life. Y'know?

 

Regarding the changes from the book to the film, I'm surprised this wasn't mentioned -- in the novella, Gordie doesn't pick up the gun against Ace; Chris does. The way it's framed in the book is that Gordie is telling CHRIS's story, so a lot of the "why is Gordie so special?" stuff I think is left over from the fact that Gordie ISN'T that special, and Gordie doesn't think he's that special. Gordie knows Chris is special, and I think anyone who watches SBM knows, too, that Chris is special. I think the remnants of that original structure are still left in the film in really subtle ways, and I can't really make up my mind about which format I like better -- Gordie makes the most structural sense to pick up the gun, because he's the protagonist, but I think comparing how the movie would have changed if Chris had done it would've been so interesting.

 

The homoeroticism is something that I noticed when I was older, and it's ... fun! Because I don't know that it was intentional, but it's certainly there. It's this tenderness with the way they talk to each other, and the fact that they have the majority of their conversations on their own and that they feel so comfortable confiding these very emotional and vulnerable sides to themselves in each other. I do think his relationship with Chris is tinged by nostalgia of older-Gordie reflecting on him after his death. I mean, the last shot of Chris in the film is him literally dissolving away. It's not entirely event to memory to page. (Speaking of writing though -- I think Gordie's "lines" are a matter of personal preference and I happen to like the "busboys in a restaurant" line quite a lot. The keds one I can take or leave, but I did like, "The kid wasn't sick. The kid wasn't sleeping. The kid was dead." For above stated reasons. But I'm surprised the biggest writerly line wasn't brought up -- "I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?" Discuss!)

 

About the broadness -- I agree with Devin that kids are broad, but the other thing of note is that the two instances of broadness that were brought up were right at the start of the movie -- the "JESUS!" gunshot reaction and Vern's pennies (which was an image created by Gordie -- even if they knew Vern was looking for the pennies, I don't think they would've sat under the porch and watched him do it, and that scene in particular led into Vern sticking his face through the lattice as he eavesdropped on the conversation about Ray Brower). It starts broad, it starts optimistic, it starts with an adventure -- and then it dials back. And it does that on a micro-level too, within a given scene sometimes -- the leeches scene starts with them shoving each other into the water and ends with Gordie practically crying because there's a leech on his balls. (And Gordie's great explosion afterward when Teddy and Vern are fighting with each other!)

 

One last thing before I go, and this may wind up being a jumbled mess but I'm going to try and articulate it -- nostalgia re: this movie is tricky for me. This movie is about a baby boomer who is reflecting on this very specific two-day event in his childhood. My mom is a baby boomer, and I used to watch this with her a lot. A lot of the music in it, I would listen to when I was a kid (and still do) because it's the music that my mom listened to, and it's music that I grew up with (alongside the 80s rock that my uncles listened to and the '90s and '00s music of my current generation). Nostalgia seems rooted in this idea that a thing exists in its time and not beyond, and you have to reach back to grab it and while you're reaching back you're not looking forward. And sometimes that's true. But the multi-generational nature of things like music -- and, I would argue, like this film -- I think push toward it being more than just a time capsule. I think Stand By Me grows with you, and I think it's more than just a comfort blanket. It's more than just an excuse to remember "the good ol' days" because the movie is predicated on the fact that the good ol' days were not that good, and even the most meaningful things were tinged with sadness. I think it deals a lot with hindsight, which is not the same thing as nostalgia, and how sometimes the things you should cherish are not the things you would think to stop and immortalize in the moment. The journey was about them going to see the dead body, but he was writing in a large way about this intersection of his friends in this very pivotal moment in his life, and how the context of them experiencing it with him shaped the experience and him (specifically, especially Chris).

 

Anyway! I'm voting a resounding yes. Obviously.

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post

So I actually agree with Devin that the movie is told through the backwards staring gaze of Gordy's character. That said, I don't think the movie does anything with that. An adult writer's perspective on childhood events should bring more meaning to the proceedings than it ultimately does, and I come away from Stand by Me feeling like they've done a whole lot of work to replicate something that feels authentic on the surface, but doesn't have much to say beyond that.

 

By contrast, take what Yves Robert did in adapting Marcel Pagnol's autobiographical novels in both My Father's Glory and My Mother's Castle. In that, he both captures what it's like to be a child but allows the backwards gaze to imbue everything with a much more knowing and deeper meaning. Those movies are about both the sweetness that nostalgia can provide but also the added pain that subsequent tragedy can infuse upon certain memories. They use nostalgia as an entry point to re-experiencing joy and sorrow on a deeper level with the benefit and clarity of hindsight.

 

So I'm a strong no. This is a Hollywood version of a coming of age movie. It's fine. It's good enough. But it feels a little trite and contrived too often for it to resonate with me on a deeper level. On top of that, I find it really really hard to stomach Wheaton and Feldman's performances, especially in contrast to what Phoenix is doing here.

Share this post


Link to post

Kiefer Sutherland is next level evil in this film- beyond the normal levels of usual coming-of-age films.

I'll vote yes; the main two characters are so unnaturally compassionate-which I dig for a film aimed at teenager dudes, and the book-ends make this film feel so real and important.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

I think it has to be a yes for me. They say a film wrapped in nostalgia tends to be more representative of the time it was made than time it's portraying (see also Tin Men (1987) and Fine Young Cannibals playing in a bar) and Stand By Me is such a good example of great 1980's mainstream filmaking. It's one of the best representations of a Stephen King town ever made, and also just the cast alone is such a perfect snap shot of american films at that time. It's really shocking how many actors turn up who are remembered for such iconic 80's films in such a small cast.

Share this post


Link to post

I feel like the silly puke story is a good example of how this movie awkwardly wobbles between being broad and serious. Keifer Sutherland's gang pretty much only exist to give the movie a climax. But I love all of the stuff with the four main characters. It definitely nails what it's like to be a boy at that age. Phoenix and Wheaton's relationship is pretty moving to me.

 

So I'm a soft yes. I think this is a story told fairly well, but there are some imperfections that ding it a little.

Share this post


Link to post

I quite enjoy watching Stand By Me but I don't think it's particularly canon-worthy. The sentimentality, the wonky voice-over and the 'one special weekend' plot thread all seem a bit cloying and sticky sweet. As a movie, it's a bit bland outside the nostalgia, as an example of Reiner's films it's not as great as The Princess Bride and as a coming of age story, it doesn't seem to have anything exceptionally poignant or unique to say (or a unique way to say it, which I give Labyrinth credit for).

 

It seems to me Stand By Me isn't so much an 'authentic' portrayal of 12 year old boyhood as much as it is a certain adult male vision of what 12 year old boys should be like. We're watching a romantic interpretation of a long-passed childhood. I can't see it as being anything more authentic or representative than that.

 

So no, but still worth a watch every now and then.

Share this post


Link to post

I've always enjoyed this movie but I can't call it Canon worthy. To me, while a vastly better film, it's not all that far removed from the likes of The Goonies. I like Devin's idea that the reason the storytelling in this is a little too steeped in nostalgia is that perhaps these are idealized versions of the more real life characters shining through Dreyfus' lens, but while I enjoy this film while I watch it, not much of it stays with me when I leave it. I agree with Amy that there's about 5 Rob Reiner movies I'd sooner canonize.

Share this post


Link to post

Yes!

The scene where Chris talks about the teacher's betrayal really makes the movie for me. Yes, the movie brings me warm memories of being that age with my three good friends from that time too (I was the Vern of our group :/), but it's that scene with Chris that I think is very important. Because unlike the movie, my childhood friends and I never went on a coming-of-age adventure (who does?), but we never even opened up to each other. We were never close on any emotional level. (I'm sure that's not uncommon.) To see kids I identify with have these emotional break throughs means a lot to me.

I knew a Chris. Same mean older brother. Same situation of everyone shrugging him off as being from "that" family. I cry EVERY time Gordie narrates that Chris died. My Chris luckily hasn't, but he sure hasn't moved on past what people expected of him.

If this movie were remade to take place today, or 30 years ago, it would probably be right to not cast Chris as white, right?

 

And if no one's seen

, I highly recommend it.

Share this post


Link to post

Rob Reiner was on fire in the 80s, but I can think of 3 or 4 of his movies from this era that belong in the Canon before we ever consider Stand By Me.

Share this post


Link to post

I have no nostalgia for Stand By Me. I did not grow up with this movie. I was born in the 90s, and only saw it one time on TV growing up and it did not really stick with me in any way. I remembered the leech scene, and that most of the kids were kind of annoying to me. I rewatched it again a few months ago with some friends (we were discussing essential coming of age movies, and they were both in disbelief I didn't consider Stand By Me as one of the classics), and I definitely enjoyed it more, but overall still did not find it anywhere near Canon Worthy.

 

A pretty strong no from me.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

I like this movie but it leaves me cold and I don't even feel any passion for defending that argument. Devin admitted he sees this movie through slightly rose colored glasses, I can relate to that in how I feel about Labyrinth. I feel like this thread is going to be a lot of people defending the weaknesses of yet another boy coming of age movie ( which is fine, whatever) I'd just really like to see an episode for something like a we are the best or ghost world to balance things out.

Share this post


Link to post

I don't share many of Amy's specific criticisms of the film, but I agree with her overall sentiment: good but not outstanding. It's watchable and enjoyable, but lacks anything truly mesmerizing. This gets a soft no vote from me.

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post

Hard yes; and I agree with Devin that the movie is clearly heightening the reality a pinch thanks to the P.O.V. of the film; even things such as the train escape... did they really come that close or is he just remembering it that way? Maybe the movie doesn't do enough with that, but I still think it's painted as such with the overwrought sayings and the way the film is framed as being written into a book/article.

Share this post


Link to post

This is a movie that's full of nice moments that doesn't feel like a really well made movie overall. There are some structure issues I have, especially reliance on flashbacks to fill in blanks without informing any of the present action. I agree with the point that grown up Gordie is a poor writer based on his narration and that's piling onto the fact that the narration is pretty pointless to begin with and I double agree with Gordie feeling too much of a "special" character that the other characters hold up, making me think that the foundations are being set for characters like Bella Swan.

 

For me, Gordie just seems so passive and inconsequential. I concede that he is a writer and a writer's role is to observe but because of that his final decision to point the gun at Ace feels really unearned.

 

This was an easy no for me.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

Hmmm. I watched this movie ready to hate it. and I somewhat enjoyed it--even teared up a few times. I'm 27 and watched it for the first time. I don't really think Devin's defense was really strong, though I can appreciate how important this movie is to him.

 

I can't get behind an argument that "this movie really captures what it's like to be 12 year old boy." I mean, I'm not white or straight so this doesn't reflect my childhood at all.

 

I have to say i was rather troubled by Devin's claim that Teddy was not bullying Vern. A common rhetoric, one that often stops boys from reporting bullying, is that the bully is just busting the target's balls and just joking. The bully doesn't get to decide if he's a bully or not. The victim does. So if Vern feels like he's being bullied, then he is even if supposedly the bully thinks he's just busting chops. I didn't see any love or affection from Teddy, or any indication that Vern is secretly loving it. That anyone could watch them and think "not bullying" is astounding.

 

That being said, I think I'm voting yes on this movie. I enjoyed it, and I can clearly see the influence. I mean boy coming of age movies are a dime a dozen these days and I am sure they are all influenced by SBM. I didn't agee with Amy on a lot of points, especially the "everyone has a bad family" criticism. Because then she criticizes the movie because Gordy had a supportive brother and friend. Didn't really make sense for me.

 

Essentially i didn't like either's arguments but still voting yes.

Share this post


Link to post

Btw, I was wondering if anyone is here is familiar with PNW history and can answer why the accents seemed to lean pretty hard in the New York/Boston realm? John Cusack was also a Yankee fan, apparently, which seemed odd to me but I guess front runners gonna front run?

Share this post


Link to post
Btw, I was wondering if anyone is here is familiar with PNW history and can answer why the accents seemed to lean pretty hard in the New York/Boston realm? John Cusack was also a Yankee fan, apparently, which seemed odd to me but I guess front runners gonna front run?

Not sure about the accents but the film is set a year before the Dodgers moved to LA and 2 years before the Giants moved to San Francisco and 13 years before there's an MLB team in Seattle, so him being a Yankee's fan seems to make as much sense as anything else.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post

Not sure about the accents but the film is set a year before the Dodgers moved to LA and 2 years before the Giants moved to San Francisco and 13 years before there's an MLB team in Seattle, so him being a Yankee's fan seems to make as much sense as anything else.

 

This was a detail I liked -- given that this was at a time before there were any Major League teams on the west coast, it makes perfect sense that a kid living there would just pick up fandom of the most successful and/or most publicized team. The Yankees certainly qualify.

Share this post


Link to post

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×